In her most recent (4/6/09) article, entitled “Social Networking Emerges as Job-Hunting Tool” regular ITCareerPlanet contributor Esther Schein, picks up and runs with an idea that’s crossed my mind many times in the last year or so — namely, that the various social networking sites offer great tools to IT professionals seeking work, as well as ample opportunities to catch up with old classmates, colleagues, and friends. I’d have to observe that this becomes increasingly true for social network members as they get older (for the younger set the emphasis is more on “social” than “networking,” while for those of use higher up on the age ladder, myself included, the emphasis is far more often the other way ’round).
And despite Schein’s observations to the contrary, my own experience is that Facebook and MySpace remain far more social than networking oriented in this sense, whereas other, more professional sites such as LinkedIn, Plaxo, and so forth, naturally assume the job search mantle because they’re rather more professionally oriented anywyay. This by no means detracts from the value or import of the article, and isn’t meant as a major cricitism of Shein’s excellent story: there’s no denying that social networks can be very useful to job seekers, especially during the early phases of reconnaissance and targerting where personal connections can make a huge difference in identifying opportunities, and making the first cut between the “nahs!” and the “let’s look at this resume/appliction more closely” stages of candidate qualification.
Shein also observes that once you target a prospective employer, the social networking sites can let you learn a lot about current employees, especially when it comes to understanding the prevailing work ethic, typical employee profiles, corporate/organizational culture, and other aspects of life as a worker at the target company or organization. Of course, this kind of information also leads naturally into interview preparation should an indication of candidate interest provoke a similar sign of interest from a prospective employer.
Personally, I’ve found LinkedIn to be a great way to reconnect with former colleaues, co-workers, and co-authors. In my own case, it hasn’t led me to any job offers, but it has led to numerous consulting and writing gigs, some of relatively long standing and nice remuneration. Working social networks for work purposes turns out to be a savvy and workable approach to today’s job market. If you haven’t done so already, I urge you to give it a try, with LinkedIn at the top of the list. And of course, that leads to my final words on this subject here: always treat your presence on social networking sites as both personal and professional, and don’t post (or say) anything you wouldn’t want a current or prospective employer to see! Otherwise, those words and images could haunt you for years and years to come…