These days, not many people are unfamiliar with the concept of social networking -- especially for personal use. What they are unfamiliar with, however, is how to use social networking effectively in their job search and career.
Maintaining a solid network is vital to having a successful career, according to recent research from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Between the ages of 18 and 34, the average U.S. worker will hold nine different jobs. And at most, 20 percent of openings will be featured on job boards or in the classifieds, according to the BLS. Given these statistics, workers and job seekers must take their networking beyond cold calls to old friends or e-mails to past employers or referrals.
"Networking remains the number one way most jobs are filled. The closer one stays in contact with a wide variety of people within their field, the more they learn about potential opportunities that may be developing," says Tom Dezell, a networking adviser and author of "Networking for the Novice, Nervous or Naive Job Seeker." "This allows him or her to establish potential candidacy long before opportunities reach public posting, if they ever would reach such status."
Job seekers must also take to networking on social networks as well, Dezell adds.
"Social networks and media provide make finding people to connect with much easier. Individual contact information is much more readily available. Plus, social media provides numerous forums where candidates can share their expertise with all members of their professional communities, drawing increased interest from industry thought leaders," he says.
Although LinkedIn is thought to be more of a professional networking site than Facebook, the latter can prove to be a beneficial networking tool if you know what you're doing.
"Create a professional profile on Facebook in addition to your personal profile," Dezell says. "Many companies have their own pages or profiles these days, so a professional profile is important to ensure you're sending the right messages to a potential employer."
To ensure you are making the most of your professional profile on Facebook, job seekers should highlight professional organizations they belong to, share articles they read related to their field with friends, and make sure any blogs they write or comments they make on professional articles get displayed, Dezell says.
"Position oneself as a thought leader, problem solver and committed to the growth of their field," he says. "Post and share positive information. In social forums, we tend to share more humorous or lighter information. Unfortunately, this can be misinterpreted by readers looking with a more professional perspective."
If you want to be a master networker on Facebook, here are five tips from Dezell.
1. Find companies that you're interested in on Facebook and study their pages
"Not only for potential job announcements, but ALL information available regarding upcoming projects, positive news releases and employees contributing to professional information sources. The better an understanding one can get about what's going on within a targeted company, positioning oneself as a potential solution becomes much easier."
2. Follow the pages of associations and groups in your field
"See what information is available on such pages. This can give early clues to where potential opportunities might be developing. Contribute to the pages. Use the opportunity to showcase your expertise."
3. Find names of key personnel within the field; research them and companies on other social networking sites
"Sign up to follow or join similar groups. Seeing what articles and events such individuals value enough to share with their professional communities and find ways to contribute and join such events. Realize that people will notice someone that writes several insightful comments on articles they deem relevant enough to share with their networks."
4. Join less specific groups such as alumni or chamber groups as well, and share knowledge as willingly
"Even though a smaller percentage of the members might be in your field, they may also know people within your field and serve as a potential liaison."
5. Keep involved even when not in an active job search
"Your next job search is much closer than you think. Plus, if you feel gratitude to an individual that helped you secure your job, the best way to repay will be to help another secure his or hers."
Rachel Farrell researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues for CareerBuilder.com. Follow @CareerBuilder on Twitter.
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