There were 12.8 million Americans out of work last month according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But there are only 3 million positions available on career networking sites like BranchOut and LinkedIn, which means a minimum of four people are vying for every job opening. So how do you get ahead of the other three? For more and more job seekers, recent grads and those looking to advance their career, a respectable résumé and a cover letter simply is not enough — the answer is the inside connection offered by social networking.
Colleges, universities and career centers leverage social networking by connecting students and alumni with potential career opportunities through exclusive job boards and online networks like NACELink. Many maintain Facebook and Twitter pages and use peer mentors to tweet and post messages promoting networking events like career fairs, conferences and industry seminars. But to meet the demands of a competitive job market, one must do his or her own recruiting to build a network that works.
“Recruiting has totally changed in the last 10 years. It has become so much more social,” said Rick Marini, the CEO and founder of BranchOut, a Facebook job board with about 15 million active users.
Launched in 2003, LinkedIn is one of the most popular professional networking sites with more than 150 million registered profiles in more than 200 countries. Profiles can be made public and show up fairly high in public Google searches, giving its members visibility without forcing recruiters to log in to a social networking site. And users can customize URLs with their first and last names, making them rank even higher in Web searches that include their name.
BranchOut is similar to LinkedIn in that it allows one to network and find jobs through social media, but differs by using a Facebook member’s existing information and social connections as the platform to do so. “It is about leveraging your friend network to help you get your résumé to the top of the pile and get that job,” Marini said.
This differs from LinkedIn, where users build their networks from scratch. And many of the jobs listed and recruited via LinkedIn are executive-level positions not necessarily found on BranchOut. “LinkedIn is great for the top 15% of people in their field, while BranchOut works best for the other 85%,” Marini said.
Professional networking sites are designed to help users highlight their strengths.
“Your LinkedIn profile is your chance to showcase your skills and talents and help the right people and opportunities find their way to you,” said LinkedIn spokeswoman Erin O’Harra. “When it comes to finding potential business partners, vendors, experts and employees … LinkedIn is a gold mine. You can search for the title ‘recruiter’ or ‘HR manager” and narrow the search down to your zip code to build relationships with recruiters and hiring managers in your area. Or join your college alumni group, which is another great way to reconnect.”
But just like any formal business matter, there is proper etiquette and following some expert advice will help improve your chances of scoring the perfect job.
Jon Goldmann, the social media manager for the luxury travel website Jetsetter, insists that beyond sending customized introductions and messages, there are a few rules to remember.
“Everything you do online is visible nowadays. Make sure you’re always putting your most authentic foot forward and don’t share anything you’d be embarrassed to show an employer or client,” he said. “Legacy is greater than currency: Everything you do online helps shape your personal brand, so build [it] carefully … then worry about getting paid for [doing] it.”
—Becca Blond, Brand Publishing Writer