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By now most of us are aware that Facebook is the most popular of the Social Networking Sites (SNS), with as many as one billion users globally. It should come as no surprise, then, that it also has a large professional networking component for job seekers called BranchOut though there are many who don’t really know what BranchOut is, what it does, or why they should use it.
BranchOut can perhaps best be described as LinkedIn for Facebook (we suggest, however, that you not choose one over the other; rather, invest the time and planning to maximize the benefits of both!). Like LinkedIn, BranchOut provides a vehicle for establishing and maintaining a professional network to assist you when you seek a new or different job, source and recruit employees, generate leads. In general, BranchOut provides is an excellent way to create a professional network of contacts and resources. Effective? Well, if 3 million jobs and 20,000 internships listed at any given time are indications, the answer seems obvious.
Although some suggest that there’s no need to utilize BranchOut unless you are actively seeking a change in your employment situation, we see no downside to expanding your professional network whenever you can. Building a community tailored to your needs, interests and expertise is a great way to stay in touch, stay informed and stay relevant. Besides, not setting yourself up on BranchOut until you actually need it is perhaps not the best example of career planning.
So, why exactly should you as a job seeker or career professional use BranchOut? According to the site itself, BranchOut lets you:
- Discover where your friends work;
- Find connections at top companies;
- Post jobs to the BranchOut network;
- Post jobs to your Facebook Page;
- Use the most effective tools for recruiting and sales.
Now that we’ve (hopefully) gotten your attention, let us examine how you can best use BranchOut to your advantage. First and foremost, you’ll be well-served if you evaluate which of your Facebook contacts might be beneficial to you in your professional life. Browse their pages to determine where they have worked, where they went to school, what business associations or professional organizations they may belong to. Search any company on Facebook you have an interest in, click “Connect” on that company’s page and BranchOut will tell you who among your friends works there.
When visiting friend’s Facebook pages, you’ll often find links to the other social networking sites they’re on (e.g., LinkedIn), giving you additional ways to connect with them professionally. Use this information. In fact, you might even want to use the fact that you’ve discovered this about a friend as a way to start a conversation. Nothing bonds like sharing a bond!
Once you’ve assessed with which Facebook contacts you want to BranchOut, connect. Stay connected. We don’t suggest, of course, that you come out and ask if a friend knows of any job openings; we do suggest that you express your interests and share information, links and/or resources you think your BranchOut contact might find relevant. Chances are, if what you offer is considered relevant, you will be too.
Communicating directly with individuals isn’t the only way to benefit from BranchOut either. Your online presence on this SNS includes a personal profile URL, a chance to post your resume as well as recommendations or endorsements your connections may have offered. If utilized to its maximum potential, BranchOut can become, in a sense, your professional website on Facebook.
Aptly named, BranchOut provides you the vehicle that allows you to expand your outreach in the business world. Because it’s interactive, you should be proactive and make it a cornerstone of your career marketing strategy.