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Online Social NetworkingThe job market is beginning to improve, but competition remains significant. In order to land the job you really want – one where you can both contribute and grow – you have to be more proactive than ever.

Networking has long been a valuable resource for job searchers, but now social networking websites — Facebook, Twitter and especially LinkedIn — are must-have tools that can exponentially increase networking opportunities for savvy job seekers and hiring managers.

A recent study shows recruiters are spending about 70% of their search effort online, posting jobs and searching resume databases, but the majority of their time is spent networking. Executives are focusing about 40% of their search effort online, posting their resume, polishing their profiles, searching and responding to online postings. And again, networking.

Managing your online identity is essential.

101 Resume Examples

You can bet potential employers and recruiters are going to look you up on social networking websites. And your profile reflects your personal brand. If you haven’t done a critical review of your social media profiles – through the eyes of a potential employer — do that right now. Buff up your profiles with:

  • A friendly but business-like photo.
  • An appealing headline.
  • Detailed profile information that shows who you are as a person and the value you have added as an employee, not just your job responsibilities. Don’t forget your awards and specific accomplishments, because success says a lot about you.
  • A positive presence devoid of anything that might appear negative or just plain tacky.

Set your Facebook profile to “Friends Only” to keep strangers from seeing your personal status, photos, etc., then create a new Facebook list to keep professional “friends” separate.

In your contact information include the URL for your Twitter handle and LinkedIn profile, but not Facebook, since you’re keeping that more private. This gives people more ways to contact you and at the same time demonstrates you’re an up-to-date user of social networking websites, increasingly important as a job skill these days.

In fact, you need an overall networking strategy.

As long as confidentiality due to your current employment isn’t an issue, overtly use your social networking websites to get the word out that you’re available. Tell everyone specifically what you’re looking for — industry, type of job, etc. Your Facebook friends in particular know you more personally, so they may be more inclined to share information, offer suggestions, and so on.

Determine who you need to meet – career experts, human resources professionals, etc. — and connect with them. Retweet their tweets to encourage them to follow you. Join Twitter and LinkedIn industry chat groups in the industries where you want to be, to meet people and show off your own expertise.

Google yourself. If results are less-than-flattering, take action. Upgrading and frequently using your LinkedIn account will push your profile ahead of other search results.

Turn the tables and look them up – both companies you’re interested in and individuals you’ll be responding to such as HR managers or department heads. You can learn more about them, to refine your job search, tailor your messages when contacting prospective employers and be better prepared for interviews.

Thinking about a job change but not ready to make the move yet? Start planting those seeds now, building visibility that can only help you later on when your search begins in earnest.

Incorporating use of social networking websites has become fundamental to any successful job search, especially if you want to find the right job, not just another one.

Be sure you’re prepared to follow up too, with a resume that’s truly internet-ready.