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Social Networking Emerges As Job-Hunting Tool

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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.”

Cathers, who previously worked as an IT recruiter in Boston, says he was happy in that job but wanted to relocate back to New York. He knew social networking sites would be valuable in helping him “find the optimal job in a bad market.” Like Kerr and Gardere, Cathers says the handful of recommendations he got from people he previously worked for “adds an extra layer of validation to what you say.”

Besides getting recommendations, he advises others looking for work to make sure their profile and all their links and sub pages display information people would feel comfortable and proud to show to an employer.

Prepping for Interviews

Out-of-work Project Manager Sandra Herforth, who found her last job on LinkedIn, spends a lot of time perusing social networking sites even though she isn’t all that optimistic she’ll find something there.

“With the market the way it is I’m not having any success with people responding any longer. It’s been a waste of time,’’ says Herforth, of Newton, Mass., who lost her job last July. Yet, she still sees value in using the more business-oriented sites “as a tool to prepare for interviews,” when she is given an interviewer’s title beforehand, so she can find that person’s profile and learn more about their background and what might resonate with them.

Herforth says she can also glean where a company’s “knowledge weaknesses” are so she can discuss in the interview something that might be relevant to that position and where she can bring value. “Everyone’s looking to solve something so I’m looking to fill in those areas where it’s obvious” the management team has holes. “You have to differentiate yourself.”

Kerr concurs that social networking sites are critical for someone who is job hunting, or thinking about changing jobs. “Social networking is the 21st century. It’s how you look for a job and how you find a job,’’ she says.

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