October 17, 2008
Job seekers logging on, linking in, meeting up
The Orlando Sentinel
DANIEL ACKER / BLOOMBERG NEWS
ORLANDO, Fla. — When Jen Vargas was suddenly laid off from her job as a senior administrative assistant at Universal Orlando in June, the 30-year-old's résumé was out of date and she had no active job prospects.
But she did have one advantage: She's a member of the networking sites LinkedIn and Facebook.
"People who I wasn't directly associated with at work, or who worked in neighboring departments, are the ones who sent me job leads," said Vargas, of Orlando, who is still looking for work. "And co-workers who I would have expected to keep me in mind, I haven't heard from them. It was very surprising."
As more people get laid off, switch careers or worry about losing their jobs in today's struggling economy, networking sites are becoming more than places to post photos and connect with college buddies. They have become vital tools in a job search.
Like Vargas, Carla Parks joined Facebook and LinkedIn because they were the Web sites du jour at one time or another, not because she thought it would help her career.
"It was nice to have, but it was kind of a second thought," said Parks, 34, of Winter Park, Fla., referring to when she signed up for LinkedIn a few years ago.
Now Parks lists the Web address of her LinkedIn profile on her résumé and checks the site regularly. She left her job as head of public relations for an advertising agency in June when the agency sold its public-relations accounts. It was the first time in five years she has been job hunting.
Unlike Facebook, which launched in 2004 as a networking site for college students, LinkedIn has always billed itself as a business-networking site.
But as both have grown in popularity — Facebook has more than 100 million users; LinkedIn more than 26 million — they've started to resemble each other. LinkedIn now allows users to post pictures of themselves and write short status updates, while Facebook offers job listings and lets users create a profile with their work e-mail address.
Krista Canfield, a spokeswoman for LinkedIn, said that after the site launched in 2003, many users started building their network when they were looking for work.
"Now we are seeing people building up their network before they need it because we are at an interesting point in the economy, and they are worried they might lose their job," said Canfield, adding that the average LinkedIn user is 41 years old with an average household income of more than $110,000.
Parks has received some job leads through Facebook, but LinkedIn is more valuable for her job search, particularly the site's ability to let her see her connections' connections, she said.
Through LinkedIn, she contacted a friend who worked at a financial exchange organization in Chicago. That friend put her in touch with a corporate communications specialist who posted a job opening on LinkedIn.
The Chicago woman is now Parks' connection on LinkedIn, and she plans to meet with her. She also used the site to look up companies she's interested in and see whether she has any connections who work or have worked there.
"You feel like you have more control over your career and your search," Parks said.
Parks has used LinkedIn to contact recruiters, who also turn to social-networking sites to find candidates.
Meredith Miller, owner of Executive Career Search, an Oviedo, Fla., staffing company that recruits for jobs in the packaged-goods industry, said LinkedIn has become so useful that he's probably going to drop his $6,500-per-year membership to Monster.com.
"I started actively using LinkedIn this year because the candidates on the other sites are not as good quality," Miller said. "LinkedIn brings us more candidates that are not active in the job market, which from a recruiter's background is good because you don't want someone who is consistently job hopping. It's really been a gold mine for me."
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