Financial Literacy - Careers
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21st century job-hunting techniques

If you're baffled by Facebook and have no clue what Twitter is, you could be missing vital tools in your quest for employment.

The Internet has dramatically changed the way people conduct a job search. Because of nifty innovations such as social networking sites and job search engines that scour the Internet, pounding the pavement is a thing of the past.

In a tight job market with fierce competition for open positions, workers need to be proactive in their employment search. From the outset they need to know what kind of job they're looking for and ideally what companies they want to target.

"It's not enough -- for most professionals, anyway -- to just look in the paper and see what's available. You have to take it a step further now," says Allison Doyle, job search expert on About.com and author of "Internet Your Way to a New Job: How to Really Find a Job Online."

"Now you're looking at the social media involvement with LinkedIn.com and Twitter and Facebook, where people are both connecting and applying to jobs as well. It's really changed the nature of job searching," she says.

Sharpen social media tools
  • Network your way in
  • Try Twitter
  • Hone your Internet resume
  • Blog to create your brand
The old saw, it's not what you know but who you know, has always been true in the hunt for employment. But in today's tight job market, networking is especially wise. Reports of employers receiving hundreds of applications for open positions are not unusual in the current economy. Knowing a person on the inside can help wedge your foot in the door.

Network your way in

The best way to get the inside track on a job lead is with a referral from someone already employed at the company. To meet employees at the target company, job seekers can turn to online social networks to finagle an introduction or meeting.

Shortly after launching in 2003, LinkedIn.com emerged as a go-to site for professionals to network. It allows job hunters to build a profile and connect with other workers. One benefit is that it makes it easy to tailor networking to specific companies or industries.

"I can go out on LinkedIn, let's say I have 100 or 150 connections. I might be surprised to find out that some of my first-degree contacts work at one of my target companies -- or have worked there -- or some of their first- or second-degree contacts work there," says Jason Alba, CEO of JibberJobber.com and author of "I'm on Linkedin -- Now What?"

After discovering that you know someone, or you know someone who knows someone, getting an introduction can be as easy as asking for one. After that, it's up to you to turn on the charm. One rule of networking is to offer more than you ask for.

As in any relationship, bringing some value to the connection besides neediness will generally be much more rewarding for both parties. Instead of thinking, "What can this guy do for me," adopt the attitude of, "What can I do for him?" Don't discount the value of sincere friendship either. It doesn't have to be about bartering favors. 

Schmoozing on the Internet is easy, and Linkedin isn't the only networking site out there. It's not without its drawbacks, either. For instance, users must pay a fee to take advantage of all the communication options the site offers.

"I would characterize LinkedIn as more of a social directory than a social network," says Lorne Epstein, founder of Inside Job, a Facebook application for job searching.

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