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Tips for using social media as networking tools

Every time you hand out a business card, that contact should also be added to your online social network, experts say. These sites are an opportunity for self-branding and building connections while on the job hunt. Here are some tips on how to use online networking to search for employment. Tali Arbel, Associated Press

The more the merrier

"Connect with as many people as humanly possible," said Amy Webb, who is the founder of knowledgewebb.net, a Web site that offers online novices advice on blogging, building Web sites and social media such as Facebook and LinkedIn.

LinkedIn especially works best with stacks of contacts, she said, since it's meant to help build careers. The broader the net of people your name reaches, the more likely someone will find your name when trying to fill a position.

Don't be shy, Webb said. Old colleagues, supervisors, professors, classmates, friends — all are appropriate professional contacts.

"If you're sure they would remember your name, connect with them. Because you never know who they know."

Be profile-smart

Separate the personal and professional. Make sure the profile you're presenting to potential employers is appropriate, said Veronica Fielding of Jump Start Social Media, a company that counsels people on how to use online networking.

Facebook can be a venue for keeping in touch with loved ones and posting silly pictures of years gone by, but that shouldn't touch your networking efforts, Fielding said.

"It's not an environment where you put crazy photos or show the wild side of yourself," she said. It gives you the chance to showcase your personality and well-roundedness, but that doesn't mean old toga party pics. You can maintain separate personal and job-focused profiles to make sure employers don't see something untoward.

Similarly, starting a blog or personal Web site gives you the chance to show off new media skills, your eye for page design or a particular talent. You have to be careful that you're not branding yourself inappropriately, though, Webb said.

You can have a beautifully formatted site, but posting passionate political writings on it could make you look bad to potential employers, she said.

"Expressing your political, religious viewpoints, it's never a good idea unless it's tied to a job you're applying for," Webb said.

Don't sign up then forget it

Stay active. Develop an online community of people with whom you're constantly communicating — asking questions and answering inquiries about current events and shared interests. Once you feel comfortable, let them know you're looking for employment.

Twitter can be a great way to send questions on subjects or opportunities you're interested in, Webb said.

Do a search or pose a question using the pound sign symbol and follow people whose careers and activities interest you. Respond to their "tweets" and set up real-life meetings with those you follow who have similar aspirations.

Tips for using social media as networking tools 06/25/09 [Last modified: Thursday, June 25, 2009 4:30am]
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