Can ignoring social media kill a career?

"Brand yourself for the career you want, not the job you have," Schawbel says.

Reynolds agrees that Googling candidates "has become a normal part of the employer research process." She says job seekers who do not have an online presence may hurt their career prospects.

"If you are in a marketing or technical profession and don't use the Internet, it may look like you are not up-to-date with trends and tools," she says. "Plus, you will miss out on job postings, learning opportunities and so much more."

Although it's never too late to establish a social media presence, the best time to do so is long before you receive a pink slip or decide to pursue new career opportunities, Schawbel says.

"All of the job seekers that are scoring interviews and jobs now have already built their online following when they were employed," he says. "The people that are just starting to network are perceived as desperate and are begging for jobs, instead of building genuine relationships."

Best places to start

Schawbel recommends Twitter as the best place to start actively networking because it's in the public domain and allows you to follow a stranger in an unobtrusive manner.

"After a few weeks networking on Twitter, you can turn your public conversations into private ones by sending a direct message or e-mailing the hiring manager," Schawbel says. "Then, you can set up an information interview and take it from there."

He also recommends LinkedIn because it "was built as a professional network, which means that it's much more valuable than Facebook or MySpace for finding a job."

A LinkedIn profile offers potential employers a thorough understanding of your work experience and educational background. In addition, employers can view recommendations from your previous managers, Schawbel says.

"You can search for jobs on LinkedIn too, and see who in your network can introduce you to hiring managers," he says.

Reynolds agrees that LinkedIn can be a powerful resource.

"LinkedIn is the most important job-search social media tool," she says.

Regardless of which type of social media you choose to explore, it's important to create a presence that lifts your brand above the rest of the job-seeking crowd, Schawbel says.

"You want to have a positive and professional online image, so that when employers are searching for you, you don't give them a reason to move to the next candidate," he says.


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