Networking web sites can be a valuable job-hunting resource – if you know how to use them to your best advantage.
Step 1: Join some networks Join more than one network. Large social networks are great for getting the word out about your job situation or an entrepreneurial effort you want to promote, while career-oriented sites are good for finding business contacts. And consider joining smaller sites that are targeted to your field or interests.
Step 2: Join some groups Once you've joined some sites, browse their "groups," sections for smaller online associations you might like to join, like a trade organization related to your work.
Step 3: Polish your resume Create a compelling profile that includes your resume and a high-quality photo suitable for use by a job recruiter.
Step 4: Look for jobs Check out the job postings on your networking sites. If you see a position that interests you, check your network of friends and business contacts to see if anyone knows someone who can help you score an interview.
TIP: Don't wait until you need a job to begin shoring up your professional network. Ask fellow members of career-oriented sites to write recommendations for you before you need them.
Step 5: Write recommendations Stockpile goodwill by writing recommendations for other members without them asking. Just make sure the praise is warranted, or you risk losing credibility.
Step 6: Be picky Be picky – don't accept every cyberspace invitation just to be polite. Someone with a checkered work history could compromise your professional reputation.
Step 7: Re-introduce yourself When asking people to join your network, send a short message along with the invitation reminding them how you know them. Don't assume someone from four jobs ago will remember you.
Step 8: Practice give and take If you ask a contact to introduce you to one of their contacts, try to think of a favor you can do for them, or assure them that you owe them one. Trying to latch on to everyone else's business contacts without offering your gratitude is a sure way to become an online outcast.
TIP: Limit the number of times you remind contacts that you are out of work. After a while, it will make you look desperate, which is not the image you want to convey.
Step 9: Be careful Be discreet about conducting a job search while you already have one. Before you contact anyone about a position, check to see if they're connected to anyone at your current firm. And be careful what you say in group e-mails and updates; you never know who's lurking in cyberspace!
FACT: Employee referrals account for nearly 25 percent of all new hires.