Job Hunting 2.0: Get Social in a Down Economy

New Tips for Job Boards

This isn't to say that job seekers shouldn't post their résumés on employment sites such as CareerBuilder, Monster, and Yahoo HotJobs, or check out the listings there. But when applying for a job, don't simply add your résumé to the applicant slush pile. Instead, try leveraging your social network to gain a competitive edge.

Say, for instance, that you're searching Monster and you find an attractive opening at a company you'd like to work for. If your LinkedIn network includes someone who works at the company or who knows a person who does, you could ask that colleague for an inside introduction. "When you have a referral inside a company, that's the surest way to get your résumé in front of the right person," says Luo. To send messages to LinkedIn users outside your network, however, you'll have to upgrade to a premium account, which starts at $25 a month.

Many people aren't social butterflies by nature, and cultivating contacts on multiple social networks can be tiring. If you'd rather focus on a single online community, use one that has good business tools. Facebook, despite its friends-and-family focus, offers services for job seekers, including industry-specific groups and career-oriented applications such as the Jobster Career Network. And Ryze is a business-networking site that lets users set up groups based on career and geographical region.

Try Something New

If online schmoozing doesn't open any doors, it may be time for a new strategy. When business dried up for Patrick Downes, who sold print-media advertising for 15 years, the Hyde Park, New York, resident turned to job boards and online contacts to find full-time work. But after six months of trying, he had limited success other than "a few little projects here and there."

Using Twitter, Downes learned of TweetMyJobs, a free service that tweets (notifies) job seekers about new openings in their occupation and geographical region. Within days after signing up for the service, Downes received a tweet about a Subaru dealership in Albany that was seeking a salesperson. "I love cars; I happen to have a couple of Subarus myself," says Downes, who called the dealership and was hopeful of receiving an offer soon. (For more, see "How to Use Twitter to Job Hunt.")

Do It Yourself

Some entrepreneurial types are using the downturn to build new online communities, which they hope will evolve into profitable businesses. When Jason Rivera lost his public-relations job in San Francisco, he sent out numerous résumés but received no response. "While researching the latest news on the economy, I found a growing list of articles regarding pink-slip parties. I thought the idea…was genius," wrote Rivera via e-mail. He launched Slip Squad, a site where "recovering robots," or laid-off workers, can commiserate and share job-seeking tips.

When it comes to self-promotion, you can't get more direct than MyHusbandNeedsaJob.com, a joint effort by Robin and Michael Stearns, a married couple in San Francisco. After Mike graduated from Georgetown last year with an MBA, the couple moved to California to be closer to his family. But with no real-world experience in the midst of a recession, he has found securing work difficult.

"There are an enormous number of people competing for every job. In that kind of situation, obviously, experience is going to trump anything," says Mike, who credits his wife with the idea for the site. (A photo on the home page shows Robin holding a "Hire my husband" sign.)

A few days after launching the site, the Stearnses received a call from a CNN reporter, who wrote an online story about the project. Traffic skyrocketed overnight and media inquiries came flooding in, including calls from the Oprah and Dr. Phil shows. Although Mike still hasn't found work, he thinks the site itself may have a future. "We're going to keep it up for as long as we continue to get a lot of traffic," he says. "It's been so successful that we're hopefully [going] to turn it into some sort of job-search board, or something along those lines."

The bottom line: Market thyself. "Networking is like flossing. Many people don't want to do it,” says LinkedIn's Luo. But in today's economy, a little self-promotion can go a long way.

For more advice, read "Web 2.0 Tactics for Successful Job Hunting."

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