Saturday, May 3, 2008

Will Facebook For Work

Status: Looking for Work on Facebook

Published: May 1, 2008


With American consumer confidence at a 26-year low and one in seven workers telling the Pew Research Center that they fear they will be laid off, social-networking sites are becoming, for some users, platforms from which to network for job leads, to forge professional contacts or even to announce to friends that you are out of work.

Landing a job through a social network not designed for that purpose appears to be a rarity. But savvy users say the sites can be effective tools for promoting one’s job skills and all-around business networking. Even human resource professionals are encouraging people to log on.

In a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers published in March, employers indicated that whereas in the past they used social-networking sites “to check profiles of potential hires,” said Marilyn Mackes, the group’s executive director, today “more than half will use the sites to network with potential candidates.”, the job search site, officially introduced a Facebook application last month that enables companies to find candidates. It joins other job-oriented Facebook applications, including one by Jobster that has more than 26,000 members.


Steve Biegel, the creative director of Scarlet Heifer, a small Manhattan advertising agency, also uses his Facebook profile for professional ends. “You can share your entire portfolio, which is a nice way to network,” he said.

“My partner and I are constantly on these sites mingling with prospective clients or people we can hire for our company,” he added. “It’s like pollination. You just go from flower to flower.”


Even recent college graduates who have had Facebook profiles for years are refining them into business tools. Take Melissa Gilmore, Shanna Allen and Shani Alston, research assistants at the Center for Family Planning Research at Magee-Womens Hospital in Pittsburgh, whose task is to recruit women for a birth control study. About a month ago, the researchers, all 23, created a Facebook group for the center and took the creative step of linking to it on their own personal Facebook profiles to enlist friends for the study.


“When somebody joins your group on Facebook, they’re much more likely to be receptive to your message,” said Dustin Luther of Calabasas, Calif., who leads real estate seminars for sales agents and is the founder of the popular Seattle blog “My last seminar, a group of us all went out to dinner and we were able to post photos and videos. It kind of keeps everybody engaged in what you’re doing in an informal way.”

Yes, plenty of people think social-networking sites are incompatible with the formality of the workplace. Those who professionally network on Facebook and MySpace respond that all business is personal, and that it’s the informality of the social sites that makes them useful.


Certainly, social-networking sites have always been used for self-promotion. And since the deluge of attention about the perils of posting too much or wearing too little, many users have become more discreet. More people make their profiles private, or benign enough to be read by colleagues in their employee networks. Even so, some job recruiters are leery of mining the sites for talent.

Lars Asbjornsen, the vice president of online marketing for Robert Half International, a staffing service, said he saw the most potential for recruiting on a business site like LinkedIn. A survey published this month by Robert Half, based on interviews with 150 senior executives from 1,000 of the country’s largest companies, found that while executives were interested in recruiting from social-networking sites, more were interested in doing so through “professional networking” sites.

Chuck Hester, 49, of Raleigh, N.C., has profiles on both Facebook and LinkedIn but it was his connections on LinkedIn (more than 500) that helped him land his current job. After relocating his family to Raleigh from California, Mr. Hester began using LinkedIn to reach out to marketing professionals in the area. Among them was the chief executive of iContact, an e-mail software company where Mr. Hester is now the corporate communications director.

When he travels, he sends messages to members of his LinkedIn network suggesting that they meet for a meal or drink. A recent gathering in San Francisco brought together more than 20 members of his network. Every other month, Mr. Hester organizes “LinkedIn Live” meetings, where job candidates, recruiters and executives who have connected on the Web site can connect in person. The first meeting, in July, drew about 50 people; the last had about 200. “We can trace for a fact 20 to 30 people who got jobs from this,” said Mr. Hester, who is happy in his position but continues to live by a networking credo: “Dig your well before you’re thirsty.”


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