New York Times / August 14 2008
The Social Network as a Career Safety Net
By SARAH JANE TRIBBLE
IF you have avoided social-networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook with the excuse that they are the domain of desperate job hunters or attention-seeking teenagers, it’s time to reconsider. In a world of economic instability and corporate upheaval, savvy professionals like the technology consultant Josh So epitomize the benefits of brushing up your online image and keeping it polished.
When Mr. So, a 32-year-old from Dublin, Calif., learned he had 45 days to find a new job before his company eliminated his division, he turned to friends online. Within hours of updating his job status on the social-networking site LinkedIn, Mr. So won four job interviews through his contacts there. Within a week, two of the interviews resulted in offers. And within less than a month, his employer counteroffered with a position in another division and a $25,000 bump in his annual salary.
The old business adage that it’s not what you know but who you know takes a twist in the Internet era: it’s what you know about social-networking sites that can get you ahead. “Build your own inner circle of people you know are good — people you know will get you places,” Mr. So said.
While it lacks the glamour of more popular sites like MySpace and Facebook, LinkedIn “is the place to be,” said the JupiterResearch media analyst Barry Parr, if you want to make professional contacts online. LinkedIn is a “Chamber of Commerce mixer,” he said. LinkedIn has more than 25 million members, and it is adding new ones at the rate of 1.2 million a month — or about one new networker every two seconds.
Bernard Lunn, a Web technology entrepreneur in New York, describes LinkedIn as the ultimate Rolodex.
“I’m no spring chicken,” said Mr. Lunn, 53. “I’ve been in business for almost 30 years. I had lost touch with a lot of people and had spent time in different industries.” The Web site did the work of finding people for him, providing a list of likely connections by searching its own database of people who had overlapped with him at past jobs. All Mr. Lunn had to do was review the list and select contacts he wanted to add to his network.
If LinkedIn is the Chamber of Commerce luncheon, then Facebook is the after-hours party (and MySpace is the all-night rave, which may make trolling for business connections there a bit trying). “Facebook seems a more natural way of communicating,” said Debra Aho Williamson, senior analyst for eMarketer in Seattle. “LinkedIn seems more formal."
"Facebook, which began in 2004 as a way for college students to communicate, has more than 80 million active users. The fastest-growing segment is now those 25 years old and older, according to the company. The site makes it easy to carry on a casual conversation or ask group questions. The easiest way to use it professionally is to join your employer’s network. And it helps to post interesting links that are relevant to your job.
The site features classified ads in the Facebook Marketplace, and there are job-hunting applications on the site, like Jobster. There are also tools for building a professional profile or online business cards. And you can use one of a handful of applications, liked LinkedIn Contacts, to connect your Facebook profile to LinkedIn.