My job search is in full force right now. I am scouring the internet and spending numerous hours updating my resume, cover letter and my online sites. Yes, my LinkedIn profile needed some dusting off, and my Twitter account needed some minor censoring. What got me thinking about my online presence? Well recently I filled out three online applications that offered me the opportunity to share my LinkedIn profile with the hiring manager. My belief in having an online presence was just validated by these employers who recognize LinkedIn as a valuable addition to a candidate’s application.
Google “social networking and employment” and you will generate tons of priceless information about how the two concepts are virtually married these days. Yes, we’ve all heard the hilarious tales of social networking misuse, and I’ll include some links below, but this post will focus on the importance having an online presence when searching for a job.
If you are not familiar with online social networking, then check out the Wikipedia article on it. In the meantime, I’ll provide a brief explanation. Social networking services are virtual sites that allow people to connect via commonalities. Some of the most frequented social networking sites are Facebook, Myspace, Twitter and LinkedIn, but there are many more ranging from dating sites to sites for cat lovers and everything in between. 
They are all valuable but depending on your interests, one may speak louder to you than another. However, if you are seeking employment, nothing is more invaluable than LinkedIn. It’s an absolute necessity when it comes to networking and presenting yourself as a tech savvy candidate.
In a nutshell, LinkedIn is a free online professional networking site. Just like Facebook, you create a profile by adding information about yourself like employment history, education, interests and accomplishments. Once you have built your profile, you reach out to contacts who will become your “connections.” From those connections, you build a robust network. Below are tips on getting started on LinkedIn, but first, here are some quick facts pulled from the LinkedIn site I thought may help convince you to test these social media waters.
- LinkedIn has over 53 million members representing 170 industries in over 200 countries and territories around the world.
- A new member joins LinkedIn approximately every second, and about half of our members are outside the U.S. (That’s around 25 million in the US alone.)
- Executives from all Fortune 500 companies are LinkedIn members. 
Those are some pretty impressive statistics, especially when you consider how many (or few) personal connections you may have outside “the matrix.” If you’re still not convinced, try googling yourself. If you are disappointed with your lack of an online presence, LinkedIn boasts that they rise to the top of any google search. I experimented, and it worked. Everyone I googled shot to the top of the search results if they were on LinkedIn. (Facebook and Twitter, however, will occasionally bump LinkedIn out of the top spot.)
So here we go. The best way to start is to jump in. Head over to linkedin.com and sign up. You will have to give up an email address and then verify it. After that, you’re on your way. In the beginning stages, you will be prompted to enter your colleagues’ email addresses. If you are uncomfortable doing so, skip these steps. Once you’re in, you can either begin building connections or start editing your profile. I would recommend editing the profile first.
Click on “Profile” and begin adding information about yourself. Start with your current position and continue by adding past positions, education, Web sites, a personal summary, specialties, experience and personal information. You can also choose the various ways you’d like to be contacted. Now, add a photo and start connecting. Remember to be thorough but brief and proofread everything!
To connect with your contacts, click on “Contacts” and then on “Start building your network.” You will again be prompted to enter email addresses. You can also find contacts by clicking on the “Colleagues” or “Classmates” tabs at the top. This will sort individuals who work or have worked at the same company as you or attended the same schools.
As you become familiar with the basics of LinkedIn, try out some of the features like finding groups with similar interests under the “Groups” tag. I am associated with several marketing and social media groups. You can even create your own group there. Another feature that I am just overly giddy about is the “Recommendations” feature. Under the “Profile” tab, you’ll notice “Recommendations.” Here you can ask former colleagues to recommend you. Make sure you repay the favor to anyone who has bestowed you a recommendation. I recently applied for a position that requested candidates with LinkedIn recommendations.
If you are hungry for more, LinkedIn has Learning Center devoted to teaching you everything LinkedIn through videos, screenshots and how-tos. If once you’ve learned everything you think there is to know about LinkedIn, check out their blog for the late-breaking news, announcements, tips, photos and a ton more.
And finally, LinkedIn also has a job search page at www.linkedin.com/jobs. One of the impressive options when using the LinkedIn job search function is that it will show you what connections you may have to that job. For example, I searched marketing positions in Chicago and found that several members of my groups are employees at various jobs I’m interested in. Using the Advanced Job Search tab allows you to narrow down your search by keyword, location, company, industry, experience level and more. In my opinion, LinkedIn’s job search site doesn’t beat Monster, CareerBuilder or even Craigslist, but it’s an additional source with a few extra perks. (P.S. I actually just found a really great job on LinkedIn that I will be applying for this evening in beautiful Santa Monica.)
Being visible online isn’t the end all to finding a job, you still have to beat the streets, tap into personal contacts, comb the job sites, and more, but beefing up your online presence can help. I Google everyone, so I can only assume employers do, too. Google yourself, and if you don’t like the results, change them. It’s my opinion that employers probably like to see you on more than one social networking site, like Twitter and Facebook as well. However, it is extremely important that you use discretion when putting personal information on the net. Below are some resources I’ve stumbled on about job searching and social media.
- Getting Back in Shape for the Job Chase From joining social networking sites to meeting your bosses boss, business news reporter David Schepp offers tips on finding AND keeping a job in a poor economy.
- Social Media to Get a Job? Fred & Gladys Whelan Stone offer some very creative ways to market yourself using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Blogs.
- Career Watch: Get social, get a jobJamie Eckle of Computerworld offers solid advice on mastering the skill of social networking.
- Why Social Media Will Not Get You A Job In A Recession Jason Falls offers an interesting take on the realities of finding a job in recession. (The title is a bit deceiving; Jason discusses putting your all into your job search, but doesn’t advise not having an online presence. Remember, even if social networking sites didn’t help you find a job, they do show an employer you are hip to technology.)
Social Networking Mishaps
Remember, employers are internet savvy. Many check up on you, so if there’s something you don’t want them to see, don’t post it online! Below are a few incidents where bad judgments cost jobs.
- Twitter gets you fired in 140 characters or less.
- D.C. Summer Jobs Contractor Fired for Posts on Twitter
- FACEBOOK FIRED: 8% of US Companies Have Sacked Social Media Miscreants