While Facebook can sometimes seem like a way to simply post a few photos or let your friends know about your birthday -- there are ways it can come in handy in your professional career. Facebook lets job seekers tap an informal network of friends or friends of friends who can be instrumental in creating success. "The collection of friends you have through Facebook are the ones most likely to have your back," says Jenny Foss, a job search expert who blogs at JobJenny.com. With so many different options, Facebook is a good place to start if you're job hunting or just seeking to network.
Here's what to do to get started:
Customize your avatar
In an online search, your avatar is typically the first thing a potential employer sees on Facebook. So if you're in job search mode, it's important to have a professional avatar that can help you get hired. "You can create a custom avatar that includes your contact information and that you are in the job market," says Jessica Miller-Merrell, chief executive of Xceptional HR. Additionally, while your profile should be kept private, include an e-mail address and job history in the visible information so recruiters can reach out to you directly.
Use your status
Find a good way to let your Facebook friends you're looking. For example, refer them to your own site, which showcases samples of your work and a résumé, or ask them to drop you an e-mail if they know of a lead. Being specific about what type of job or company you're looking for can make it easier for people to help, Foss says. Throughout your job search use your status to update your friends on how it's going. Don't inundate friends with every little detail and make each status conversational and optimistic. "Keep it genuine, make it real," Foss says. "But don't come across as the saddest, most desperate person alive."
Take out a Facebook ad
When Marian Schembari graduated from college and wanted to land a publishing job, she took out an ad on Facebook to target publishing houses. The ad showed up for Facebook users who listed companies like Random House and HarperCollins as their employer. Once they clicked on the ad, users were referred to her personal website that contained her résumé. A person from each of the publishers e-mailed that he or she passed on her résumé to HR or wanted to meet, she recalls.
After placing her ad, others in the industry wrote about Schembari's pursuits and she was able to get her foot into the publishing world. "Facebook was the easiest and fastest way to network with a huge number of publishing people at once," she says. "It was like a networking event on steroids with an added bonus of never needing to leave my house or get out of my pajamas."
"Like" companies where you'd want to work
Since most companies have a Facebook presence these days, clicking the "like" button on that company's fan page will signal that you're interested in a job there, Foss says. Additionally, it's a simple way to learn the latest company news, which can help during an interview. Additionally, "some companies list their open jobs right on their [Facebook] pages," she says.
Keep it real
Since Facebook is a less formal network, people expect to see a more casual part of your personality so there's no need for a professional tone, points out Craig Fischer, vice president of sales at Ajax Social Media. "I have hired many people through Facebook," he says. "Many of my customers and job candidates are people who I network with [on] there."
Alina Dizik researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues for CareerBuilder.com. Follow @CareerBuilder on Twitter.
Permission must be obtained from CareerBuilder.com to reprint any of its articles. Please send a request to firstname.lastname@example.org.