Social Networking Emerges As Job-Hunting Tool

Once primarily considered places for people online to chat, catch up and share photos, social networking sites now are an important tool for finding employment.
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Like many people, Reginald Gardere recently lost a job in IT, and like thousands of unemployed workers, he has turned to social networking sites to find another one.

Gardere, who was an IT consultant at Morgan Stanley in New York, says he didn’t spend time on these types of sites while he was employed, but has joined several at the urging of his wife. He says he’s finding they are a great way to reconnect with former recruiters and co-workers and most importantly, a vehicle to post and send his resume quickly and efficiently.

“One of my friends happens to work for an HR department and is a director of IT staffing and I didn’t even know,” since they lost touch for a while, Gardere says. On a whim, he did a search of his friend’s name on LinkedIn, and says he never would have discovered what his friend was doing now—not to mention what an important contact he can be--if it weren’t for the site.

No longer do IT workers rely upon job sites like Dice, Monster and Hotjobs. Social networking has morphed from being places to chat, catch up and share photos into an important tool for finding a job. Besides LinkedIn, which claims 36 million members and more than 160,000 company profiles, and is considered the de facto site for job prospecting, other sites such as Plaxo, and even Facebook and MySpace, are being used to look for jobs, seek career advice and spread the word about employment status.

Recruiters are also taking notice, and utilize such sites as a useful way to seek out prospective candidates.

“I’m a very heavy user of LinkedIn because most of the positions I recruit for are senior level,’’ both within IT and out, says Martha Kerr, a Senior Staffing Consultant at pharmaceutical giant Schering-Plough, in Kenilworth, N.J. “It’s a great tool to dig deeper into an area of expertise that’s highly specialized, and the more highly specialized, the more helpful that type of social networking is.”

Kerr says she too found her current position because of LinkedIn after someone contacted her and asked if she knew of anyone who might be interested in it.

In the past four to five years, Kerr has filled positions in information security and senior director of IT architecture at Schering-Plough. One thing she puts a lot of stock in is recommendations users have. “There’s some implicit level of approval of someone who has recommended you,’’ she explains.

Gardere concurs, saying one of the first tips he got from friend when he started using LinkedIn was to get people to recommend him, since “it’s a fast way to show your character and work ethic, and that sends you to the top of the LinkedIn food chain.”

Kerr also suggests that job seekers join discussion groups and ask and answer questions to raise their level of recognition among their peers.

Applying ‘Cold’

It took Ben Cathers about a month to find a new job using LinkedIn, although he also has profiles on Twitter, Facebook and Plaxo.

“The job was posted on LinkedIn, and I just applied cold,’’ says Cathers, who is working in the financial industry in New York as a social community manager, using social media to develop an online community. “It’s a nice mix of IT because it’s hands-on web development and managing developers, as well as doing all the marketing and online media.”

During the interviewing process, LinkedIn continued to be useful, Cathers says, because he was able to research the company. “I was able to look up the profiles of other employees in the company to get a sense of the makeup … and the type of person they were looking for.”

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