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Author: Cliff Mintz

Most human resource professionals contend that some form of online networking with colleagues and peers is probably the best way to land a new job. To that point, online networking offers several advantages over live networking and other traditional ways of keeping in touch with others.

First, online networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn make it easy for people to find you. Unlike live networking where information flow is painstakingly slow, online networking allows users to provide prospective employers with large amounts of professional information. Moreover, online network users can control the information that employers and others can access. Effectively controlling online information may mean the difference between employment or not.

Second, membership in online networks allows users to easily keep tabs on others and visa versa. Also, users can configure online networking platforms to automatically receive news, updates and alerts in real time. Being the first to learn about a job opening may give a jobseeker a competitive advantage.

Finally, online networking sites allow users to quickly connect with one another (or access the knowledge base of a network) without investing much time or effort. In contrast with live networking, small talk and casual conversation is not required to get the information that you or a prospective employer may be seeking.

Getting Started

An important first step is to create a professional profile. This should contain a candidate’s career path including educational background, past places of employment, awards and honors, and his/her current position and job responsibilities. Sites that are designed for professional networking usually provide new users with templates that allow them to quickly create a profile.

Personal information should not be present in a professional profile. Things like age, marital status, political persuasion or sexual orientation should not appear anywhere in a user profile. User profiles MUST be devoid of compromising photos, inappropriate remarks or political or religious diatribes

Ensure that the information is publicly available so that it will appear in Google searches. Also, keep the profile current and remember to add things like recent speaking engagements, new publications etc. to remain competitive.

Expand Your Network

The next step is to find people at the site to connect with. Connecting with people who work at companies or institution where you may want to work is a great idea! Don’t be afraid to connect with others who may be more senior or even junior to you. However, only connect with others who you think may be important or valuable to your job search. Connecting for connections sake may overwhelm your network with irrelevant or inappropriate information.

Finally, invite professional friends and colleagues to join your network. Having a Nobel Laureate or a member of the National Academy of Sciences in a personal network can really do wonders for a job search! Again, this is a professional network; so only invite people to join who you can trust to keep it that way.

Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn?

Despite its massive size, Facebook has yet to prove its value for jobseekers. Twitter is better than Facebook, but like Facebook, its value as a job seeking tool remains to be determined. At present, the largest and perhaps best online networking site for professionals is LinkedIn. It boasts free job boards, paid advertising and is regularly scrutinized by professional recruiters. One of the more valuable LinkedIn features, are the LinkedIn groups where it is easy to start conversations with prospective employers and hiring managers

Keep it Professional

These days hiring managers routinely scrutinize candidates’ online presence or personas before moving forward with the job application process. Therefore, it is a good idea to Google yourself from time-to-time to manage the information that is available to prospective employers. Any damaging information may mean the difference between employment or not. Finally, online networking, if appropriately used, can be an extremely effective job seeking tool for those seeking employment in the life sciences industry.