Although the phenomenon is known as online social networking, when it comes to job search, we should refer to it as online professional networking. Here's some tips on how to use it well: you're not looking to make friends; you're looking for a job! You're going to need those friends and acquaintances – your network – to help you uncover job opportunities, but online networking is a professional activity vital to everyone's search today.
Here are a few helpful tips:
Create online profiles that are personal, yet professional, to post on all of your sites.
If you're on Facebook, you want your wall to communicate "who" you are. Just remember, potential employers will see everything you post, so use discretion. Each time you post something, ask yourself, "What if a prospective employer sees this?
Could it have a negative impact?"
Identify where your audience hangs out. If you're 24 years old, your audience is on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and YouTube. Think how you can use these networks to advance your search. What one truly unique professional attribute can you showcase to position yourself as a great hire?
If you're 45 years old and looking for a mid-level management opportunity, the best site is LinkedIn. Take the time to create a profile that's 100-percent complete and devote the hours necessary to building your network (as you would do with any of the other sites). Although other sites could potentially yield some results, the chances of that are relatively slim. (That may change over the next year.) For now, focus on LinkedIn, undoubtedly the No. 1 professional networking site.
Remember, online networking is not the answer to job search. The Internet is not the answer to job search. They are simply tools to help build your networks and identify job opportunities. There are other job search tools: face-to-face networking, ad responses, recruiter e-mail, job fairs and more. Use every tool to create an integrated and winning search campaign.
Wendy Enelow is co-author of "Expert Résumés for Military-to-Civilian Transitions" and "Executive Résumé Toolkit."