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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Higginbotham's use of the VCN and services such as LinkedIn echoes a common theme among many IT people who have found new jobs: An initial network contact rarely leads directly to an interview and hiring, but rather fosters communication with individuals who communicate with their own network and so on. Similar to the "six degrees of separation" concept, it's often a case of contacting someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows a person at a company looking to fill a position.

In Higginbotham's case, by expanding his network of contacts and keeping in touch with various recruiters and others in his network, he eventually found four people who had connections to a recruiter for SNL Financial. The process wasn't linear, he said, but rather consisted of "a lot of touch points" spread out through a net of personal and professional associations.

In another similarity with Wilson, he credits a large number of recommendations on his LinkedIn profile for his success. "One of the things I asked all the recruiters to do is to take a look at my recommendations because I think they spoke very strongly about my background, skills and tenacity in getting things done," he said.

He also used LinkedIn as a research tool to investigate his targeted company and people he would be interviewing with.

Don't spend all your time online

But Higginbotham and others caution not to rely too much on online services. "Contacting people, staying on the phone [is important] -- you can search the job boards all day long but they only work for a small percentage of people," he said.

VCN's Denny confirmed that. He said that even with his coaching on how to use social networking sites, he advises people to spend no more than 10% to 20% of their time with online tools. Use them to establish what companies you want to work for. "But then what do you do with these contacts?" he asked. "Find a way to get connected with them. Find a way to get their phone number. Find a way to get a meeting with them. You're not just looking for a job interview, maybe you're looking for an information interview."

e-Executives' Urschel, who also has been helping job seekers in classes through his church, agreed. People feel self-conscious about having to actually contact somebody -- that's not part of their normal process. "They're afraid to do something that's different. But especially in this market right now if you're not doing something that's different, it's incredibly hard to get noticed."

Steve Van Vreede, a former job search coach who developed his own job hunting social network site called NoddlePlace.com, also advocated a balanced approach of cold-calling, conducting informational interviews and networking. "Overall they want to have a balanced approach to the job search. And too many simply post their resume to job sites and hope that that will get them a job. And that is one of the least effective methods that's out there."

Sean Ryan agreed. He's the senior vice president of engineering at Lyris Inc., the company that hired Brennan Carlson. Ryan noted that social networks have vastly changed the job search process, but sometimes "people fall back to the old methods because they've been there so long," referring to the less proactive approach of posting your resume on the Web and waiting to be contacted. He and others in the company use Twitter extensively in their recruiting efforts, and he pointed out the irony that when he refers to the "old methods" he's talking about sites such as Monster.com and CarrerBuilder.com that didn't even exist 15 or 20 years ago.

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