In-person networking is an important part of any job search. But equally important in today's job market is finding your place online and becoming visible to employers who seek an employee with your skill set. Even if you aren't actively engaged in a job search, it's wise to build your online reputation so jobs are more likely to come to you.
The Wall Street Journal reported this week that companies are decreasing their reliance on job boards and refocusing their recruiting efforts by using employee referral programs and social networks like LinkedIn and Facebook. So if you haven't updated your online presence recently, now’s the time to do it.
Here are a few websites that will help you build your online presence and reputation:
The Big Three: LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. These are the top sites recruiters now use to find potential candidates, so you should keep your profiles fresh and participate in the communities as much as possible. Make yourself easy to get in touch with by displaying your contact information prominently and joining groups on LinkedIn (which lets others in that group contact you). Keep your Twitters updates public. And even if you lock down your Facebook profile in most areas, it's worth considering allowing anybody who finds your profile to message you without being a "friend."
Rapportive. If you use Gmail, Rapportive is an easy-to-use plugin that allows you to quickly connect with the e-mail sender on major social media platforms. When you receive an e-mail, it shows you the sender's location, an overview of her LinkedIn profile and photo, most recent Twitter and Facebook updates, and direct links to her social media accounts—all right in your sidebar.
Rapportive also tells you whether you’re already connected to that person on LinkedIn, and if you’re not, you can send an invitation directly from Gmail. You can also write notes for yourself about each contact for later use.
Quora. This social media platform integrates many of the features from LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, but in a different format. Quora is a question-and-answer site (similar to LinkedIn’s Questions) where people ask specific questions tagged in categories and the community answers them. Answers can be voted up or down or edited by other users.
You can follow people on Quora like you do on Twitter, or you can follow questions. For professionals, the beauty is in becoming part of a community of experts in your industry. This platform allows you to connect directly with these people, and by asking smart questions and answering others you can position yourself as a knowledgeable—and hireable—expert in your field. It's not uncommon for the engineers of a certain product to answer a question or the CEO of a player in your field to throw in his or her two cents.
BranchOut. Similar to LinkedIn, BranchOut uses your Facebook contacts to show you which companies your friends have worked for and how you can make valuable connections through your extended networks. You can recommend friends, post jobs, and ask for networking help.
This tool is particularly useful for recent college graduates who have large Facebook networks but haven’t yet started networking on LinkedIn. Since people tend to have different contacts on Facebook than they do on LinkedIn, it can also show you connections you may have overlooked. You may find an old high school friend or family member can make an important professional introduction.
Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs, a niche job board for public relations, communications and social media jobs. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.