If you’re looking for a job or even seeking a change in careers, you may be sitting at your computer scouring job sites like Monster.com, CareerBuilder.com, or Craigslist.com to check company websites for employment opportunities.
And guess what? If you’re also logged onto Facebook, you’re doing something useful by creating a network that could painlessly produce your next dream job.
Social networking sites are the next wave in job-hunting because they provide you with something called “weak links,” meaning a broad network of friends and associates. Weak links are actually quite powerful because they expose you to a much wider network than you would have access to on your own.
In other words, while your friends may not know of any new jobs, your friends’ friends just might. Here are three sites that can provide additional help as you learn to use your weak links to your greatest advantage.
Your friends have friends and jobs too
Although Facebook began as a networking site for college students, it’s become popular with all ages. Today the fastest growing segment is 35 to 54-year-olds.
It’s easy to lose track of time on Facebook trying to remember who’s in the third row of the fifth-grade class photo your friend posted or throwing a sheep at your sister, but the site has some very useful job-hunting tools, too.
For example, the Jobster Career Network application can show you where your friends work (as long as they’ve listed it in their profile). Armed with this information, you have an automatic in at companies you might like to work for. You can also add your information to Jobster’s Talent Bank, and it will help match you with employers you might like to meet.
By using the Facebook Status feature, you can broadcast to all your friends that you’re looking for a position. Because people are joining Facebook every day, if you frequently scan your friends’ friends’ lists, you may find long-lost coworkers and neighbors. With over 150 million active users, there’s certain to be someone with whom you can connect.
Getting down to business
LinkedIn puts networking into a more business-like setting, but you still rely on making connections.
First, you build a network of existing colleagues and classmates on LinkedIn; then you can either send email directly to others in your network or go through an intermediary who knows both of you. If you don’t immediately have contacts, you can join groups like college alumni groups or shared-interest groups to get started. The groups’ discussion boards allow you to ask questions or even inquire about job leads.
Once you’ve established some connections, you can access the jobs area, where companies spend $195 a month to post positions. You’ll have a better chance of scoring an interview if your prospective employer can check your LinkedIn connections.
Basic services are free and are sufficient for most tasks. For example, your home page tells you how many times your profile has been viewed in the past month, and it can also raise your visibility in search engines. The site allows you to enter enough personal information and work history that a former colleague should be able to find you, but it also protects your privacy.
There’s a lot to do on this site, but if you’re willing to put the time in, you should be able to make some valuable connections.
Experience at all levels
These days every place you go may feel like a “nonprofit,” but if you’re interested in entering the genuinely nonprofit sector either for work or volunteer experience to boost your resume, check out Idealist.
It’s a friendly community of over 706,000 idealistic individuals with all kinds of opportunities to share your passion and knowledge. It works somewhat like both Facebook and LinkedIn—you set up a profile and then join some groups or forums.
Additionally, if you’re an expert on a topic, you can create a separate profile as a speaker or consultant. Have a question about recovering from a layoff or starting your own nonprofit? Just ask it on the discussion boards. Looking for ways to meet like-minded locals? Check out the group listings.
The Idealist site also has downloadable podcasts and publications full of advice for securing employment and navigating the nonprofit sector.