Social Networks Rescue Downsized Workers

Although the total number of IT jobs is shrinking due to the recession, some companies are still hiring -- and using social-networking tools can help you land those jobs. In fact, being in the IT industry just might give you an advantage over the average laid-off worker.

That's because social networking Web sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are foremost among those new tools, and IT people are more likely to be comfortable with them and with related technologies that can help in a job search, such as automated scripts, customized search engines, RSS feeds and the like, experts say.

Brennan Carlson ( Facebook and LinkedIn), a newly hired product manager at e-mail marketing firm Lyris Inc., is an extreme example. He took a highly organized, scientific approach to his job search when he was laid off from Yahoo Video last winter.

This included using custom search engines, Greasemonkey (a Firefox plug-in allowing customized Web page appearances via JavaScript), scripts running on top of Firefox, widgets, mashups, a spreadsheet and a customized Netvibes "start page" that organizes blogs, news, weather, photos and social networks. Carlson also made concentrated use of social networking sites to present himself online and to research targeted companies.

LinkedIn was one of the most useful tools he used, as it is for almost everyone else we interviewed. It's also a key tool for IT hiring managers and recruiters looking for candidates. It has become the de-facto must-use tool in today's career environment.

But whether it's LinkedIn or one of the other myriad services, these Web tools are vital to today's IT job search, Carlson said.

"If you're not online, get online," Carlson said. "Be everywhere. Start using these services. . . If you're not on Twitter, get there. Start Tweeting."

Getting More Targeted More Quickly -- with Success

Carlson's initial action consisted of sending out about 60 to 70 resume/cover letter blasts to job sites, companies, etc., around the holiday season after the Yahoo Video layoff. When nothing came out of that, he took a more organized and targeted approach and sent out 103 blasts -- but this time he used LinkedIn and other tools to research target companies, trying to find people who worked at the company who had a role in the product area he was interested in, or who worked as company recruiters.

Three days after the blast, he sent out follow-up messages. "And the response rate from those follow-ups was much higher than the original sendouts," he said, at 40% compared to the first response rate of only 5%. During this time he was maintaining his online profile, doing status updates on sites such as Facebook and Twitter "that were relevant and germane to my job search."

The result: he started working at one of his targeted companies, Lyris Inc., on March 23, four weeks and one day after the targeted resume/cover letter blast.

Lyris, Carlson's new employer, has a corporate presence on Facebook and is "all over Twitter," Carlson said. He said the company has multiple people posting on Twitter, but Lyris does it in a way that establishes a corporate identity that shares information with a common voice but doesn't allow Tweets from the entire company. "I thought that was pretty well done," he said.

Carlson, who studied computer science in college, describes himself as a longtime Internet geek, which helped him in his job search. Specifically, he had experience in working with "new media" at Yahoo and was familiar with social networking sites and other tools. "I think there was a level of awareness that I took into the process that certainly helped me," he said.

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