If you can find Jon Kolbe a job, you'll win a brand-new high-definition camcorder.
It's not a new game show. Just his plea for help on Twitter.
The Boca Raton father of two has been without a job for seven months, and at this stage he has gone far beyond posting online resumes and joining online networking groups.
"A lot of these ads are blind, and I don't know who I'm applying to and I don't know how to follow up — and that's been the most frustrating part," Kolbe said.
After applying for a couple hundred jobs, he finally found a lead from a stranger on Twitter.
Like Kolbe, the unemployed in South Florida are flocking to the social networking site and using it to scour for job leads and listings. While the job market is still tough no matter the method of search, the instant nature of the posts, mixed with an environment that breeds a neighborly spirit, makes Twitter a hot spot for finding opportunities.
Kolbe saw something on Twitter written by Toby Srebnik, who goes by the username fsutoby. Srebnik wrote: "Heading home after an amazing day at Boca Beach Club. I even ran into some old Chamber and hotel friends."
Kolbe had just applied for a job at the Greater Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce. So he asked Srebnik if he had any connections at the chamber.
After a few messages — known as tweets — back and forth, Srebnik recommended him to the chamber recruiter and Kolbe scored an interview, only his second interview since December.
"The amazing thing about Twitter is that you end up doing things for people that you don't know," Srebnik said. "If you go to his Web site you can see this guy is perfect for being out in the community. He just has that engaging personality."
Kolbe is still waiting to hear if he got the job.
Navigating new terrain
On Twitter, "when people lose their job and get laid off, that often starts a firestorm a lot more quickly," said Forrester social media analyst Jeremiah Owyang.
There are so many job messages sent on Twitter that tools like TwitterJobSearch.com have been created to sort through jobs in various industries. There are more than 5,200 results for social media jobs and 20,550 more for the health care industry.
Owyang has noticed bloggers buzzing about the amount of folks jumping on Twitter to get jobs — in particular, for the communications field. He said people are joining these networks to appear to be social media experts, which can help their chances of getting hired in a wired world.
Best Buy has used its Twitter account to ask the community what the job description should be for a new media job and suggests that anyone who applies should have at least 250 Twitter followers.
"That's never happened before," Owyang said. "I don't know how successful it will be."
Sharlyn Lauby is president of Internal Talent Management, a human resources consulting firm in Weston, and publishes a blog called HR Bartender. She advises folks to use Twitter to find out about jobs in specific industries by using key words — known as hashtags — like JobAngel or Hiring.
"People are trying to use Twitter as a recruiting tool," Lauby said. She got folks to start using the search term WhatIDo so people can send tweets about what they are good at.
But Kolbe has gone a step further. He's now a one-man marketing machine.
Beyond the job boards
Kolbe's story began like those of many people who have lost jobs: After getting caught up in a round of layoffs at an architecture firm, he created profiles on social networks including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to market himself. The former project manager spent every day crawling through the Web sites Monster, CareerBuilder, EmployFlorida, Indeed and SimplyHired.
Months went by without any luck. He built his own Web site, JonKolbe.com. His e-mail address is now HireMeJonKolbe.com. He attaches Dunkin' Donuts $2 gift cards to each resume, hoping that a cup of joe will warm the hearts of recruiters.
"I think the longest I've ever been out of a job is two weeks," said Kolbe, who is living on $1,100 a month in unemployment benefits.
Sasha Muradali, 24, estimates she has sent out about 600 resumes since 2007.
When she couldn't get a job after getting her master's degree at the University of Miami in 2008, she found that Twitter was a good way to market herself.
Just from tweeting about public relations topics, in four months she went from zero Twitter followers to 1,600 users subscribing to her feed.