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Joining the Right Social Networks for a Job Search

“Which are the best social networks to use for job search?” That’s a good question with no clear-cut answer, as it depends on your definition of “best.” There are an overwhelmingly large number of social networks, and new ones being created weekly. Examples include business social network sites, more socially-oriented networks sites, photo and music sharing social network sites, dating social network sites, highly vertical professional social network sites, and social network aggregation sites.

Each one is slightly different. And none have the same type of social network members. But just because there are many social networks, it doesn’t mean that you need to join a large number of them.

To avoid information overload, start by focusing on just one or two networks. Facebook and LinkedIn are two great choices. Once you become familiar with these two main networks, the transition to any other network will be an easy one. You will already have your content in place, so it is just a matter of making a few tweaks to accommodate the social network specifics.

Due to its focus and Fortune 500 pedigree, LinkedIn is a tremendous channel to leverage in your people-search. Bear in mind, though, that you can only connect directly to people in your own personal network. No introduction is needed; just send them an ‘invitation’). To safeguard its unique niche, respect its members’ time, and eliminate potential spamming, or UCE (unsolicited commercial email), LinkedIn does not allow you to connect to people beyond your personal network.

Connecting to the contacts of one of your personal network acquaintances is highly recommended to vastly expand your personal network. These are individuals who are one time or two times removed from your personal network. You will need an “introduction” to be made on your behalf by your acquaintance to their contact. This helps to maintain the high quality of LinkedIn’s online network.

LinkedIn’s features include a profile page that is customizable by adding a head-shot image, personal/business information, email address, and other relevant information. Users can seek endorsements from past clients or colleagues who are willing to provide testimonials on their behalf. This is a great way to build you credibility and have potential recruiters, employers, and consultants learn more about you.

Groups within LinkedIn will provide you with the ability to research and join specific groups of interest around product/services, markets/industries, or other focal points. This, too, is a great way to expand your presence/brand and network via people-searching.

The Answers feature within LinkedIn offers the ability to pose questions to your network if looking for solutions to a business problem or market research. These questions are posed and emailed only to your personal network, and you have the ability to mail to all or to be selective about who will receive your message. This also enables you to reply to questions you receive from others in your network, and it’s a fabulous tool for positioning yourself by adding value and demonstrating your willingness to help and offer solutions to others.

NOTE:Do not use this vehicle to ‘sell’ or ‘solicit’ business. This is a surefire way to isolate yourself from the very network that can help you. The business that does come your way will arrive more indirectly as a result of your ‘contributions’ in asking/answering questions and providing value.

By inviting others to join your network, you can increase your network of professional contacts and broaden your connections exponentially. You can identify potential connections via LinkedIn’s search functionality.

The other place to start with social media is Facebook. whose sheer size makes it the largest online social networking site and one of the Internet’s most trafficked destinations. When many people think of Facebook, they envision it as the place where college students post photos from parties and attempt to hook up with romantic partners. However, this social networking site is now a dynamo that has been increasingly embraced by individuals over 25.

Today it is a viable place for professionals to network with the ultimate goal of finding their next jobs. So despite their high number of younger users, don’t look down on Facebook or MySpace. Recruiters and HR mine these huge pools of social communities every day, looking for candidates for their job assignments.

Why ignore such a potentially rich source of contacts that can help you in many different ways? Whereas LinkedIn is more business focused, Facebook and MySpace are just the opposite. They emphasize the ‘social’ component of the phrase ‘social media.”

That means you will need to be more deliberate when setting up your profile if you’re new to these sites. You also should consider modifying your profile if you’re a current member to take a more professional approach with it. You may wish to forgo filling out certain sections that make it seem too personal (e.g., relationship status, interested in, favorite books/movies).

That said, you won’t want to eliminate your personal side. You’ll want some personal aspects so as to demonstrate your authenticity as a qualified individual. Also, letting part of “you” show through helps make you more multidimensional. Noting some of your unique interests, hobbies, and pursuits can help others make more of a ‘connection’ with you. These qualities can humanize you. It’s always easier to write off a candidate who is no more than a name on a page along with some job experiences as opposed to someone who comes off as a real person.

Let’s face it: People hire people, not profiles. This is what makes informational meetings so important. They enable you to explore career opportunities and learn about those who are working in an industry or company you might like to enter. While social networking can make connecting all the more efficient, it still doesn’t replace the face-to-face meeting.

Sherrie A. Madia, Ph.D. is an educator, author, and trainer. Her most recent books include The Social Media Survival Guide (Also available in Spanish), The Online Job Search Survival Guide, and S.E.R.I.A.L.PRENEURSHIP: The Secrets of Repeatable Business Success. She is frequently cited by the national media as an expert in social media. She is Director of Communications, External Affairs, and a Lecturer at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

To schedule an individual consultation or group workshop on online job-search, visit http://www.OnlineJobSearchBook.com.

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