Do Job Seekers Have to Use Social Networks?

If you hate these tools and resent hearing you have to use them, here’s some good news: You don’t.

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It's become fashionable to insist that job seekers must use online networking tools like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, or their job search will be crippled.

If you hate these tools and resent hearing you have to use them, here’s some good news for you: You don’t.

[See how employers choose from among many great candidates.]

Of course social networking sites can be really helpful tools—they can expand your network, showcase your expertise, or alert you to openings. And because their popularity is growing, I do think you're doing yourself a disservice if you don't at least check them out and get a sense of what they're all about. But if you give yourself a chance to see if you like them, and you realize that you don't, then stop using them—and have no guilt about it.

Unless you're in a field where online social networking is part of the gig (and those are a tiny fraction of all jobs), online social networking really isn't essential to getting a job. Saying you have to use these sites to have a successful job search is like saying you have to go to local job fairs. There are all kinds of tools job seekers can use. None are mandatory. And plenty—maybe even most—people are still getting jobs without much online presence.

[See 5 ways companies mistreat job seekers.]

Personally, I use online networking sites and really like them. But I use them because I enjoy it. If the only thing driving you to LinkedIn is a sense of obligation, some fear that you have to be there because that's how people get jobs these days, and you're not finding it coming naturally to you, give yourself a break and spend your time doing something else.

Despite what some would have you believe, there are still plenty of highly qualified, in-demand candidates who have no presence at all on these sites. It's not mandatory.

And don't get me started on people who claim you have to have a personal "brand" to succeed these days.

Alison Green is the author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Leader's Guide to Getting Results. She is chief of staff for the Marijuana Policy Project, a nonprofit lobbying organization, where she oversees day-to-day management the staff as well as hiring, firing, and staff development. Her writings have been published in the Washington Post, the New York Times, Maxim, and dozens of other newspapers. She blogs at Ask a Manager.

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