Job hunting? Use social networks to make crucial connections

LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter can do much more than just let you blow off some steam

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Fewer resumes, but more focused

When Erik Werner was laid off the week before last Christmas from a videoconferencing manufacturer, he immediately turned to the social networking sites to get the news out, build up his network of contacts, research his target industry and gather job leads. He's now a senior engineer for a Washington, D.C., systems integrator, Facchina Global Services.

"By using the social tools I was able to shake a lot more network trees than I normally would have," Werner said. He was also laid off during the 2001 dot.com collapse, when these tools weren't available. Back then, he had to rely on the shotgun approach. "In 2001, I probably put out, over five months, 10 resumes a day," he said.

This time, he said, he probably sent only 20 to 30 resumes in total, but through use of the social networking tools he knew exactly where they were going.

Erik Werner
Erik Werner sent out fewer resumes, but was able to target them better, than in previous job searches.

"In this economy, there's a lot of people in the same position," he said. "So how do I stand out? I stand out through the personal interactions. I stand out through the very much more laser-focused" approach that includes asking a social contact to put him in touch with someone in a certain field or company.

He used Facebook to let his friends know he was laid off, which resulted in replies ranging from condolences to invitations to share his resume with contacts they knew. He used LinkedIn to put the word out to business contacts he had made over the years. That also resulted in offers to disseminate his resume. He made sure his LinkedIn information was up to date and everyone knew his e-mail and other pertinent information. He used Twitter mainly as a "listening post," keeping himself up to date on current events in his areas of interest.

He ended up getting hired by somebody he had done business with before. "Opportunities came to me, and then I was able to choose which opportunity I wanted to pursue," he said. "But the way the opportunities came to me was through my social networks."

The power of going local

But such networks don't always have to be the mainstream worldwide services everyone knows about. Local career-related networks can also be key.

Michael Higginbotham was another victim of the collapse of Circuit City, where he had worked as a program manager of Web development. Now he's a senior product manager of platforms at SNL Financial in Richmond. He calls LinkedIn an essential tool in his search, but both he and fellow Circuit City alumni Natalie Wilson expanded their job search via the Virginia Career Network (VCN). This group was started in November by Collins Denny, an account manager at IT consulting company Leading Edge Systems Richmond.

The VCN has a presence on LinkedIn, Facebook and Meetup, where Denny said the VCN is the largest group of unemployed professionals on the service. Meetup promotes regular in-person meetings of groups formed around a common interest. He said about 1,300 members have joined the group, with 500 to 600 being regular, active participants.

Denny said the VCN, while coaching members on the use of LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, emphasizes face-to-face networking with short and quick "elevator pitches."

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