The job market. Over the past few years, those three words have evoked apprehension and insecurity in college graduates and experienced professionals alike. We have weathered an uncertain economy and spiking unemployment rates—but there is good news.
This year's annual college job forecast from CareerBuilder reveals that employers plan to hire slightly more recent college graduates in 2011. Forty-six percent of employers indicate they plan to hire college grads, up from 44% in 2010 and 43% in 2009.
Another plus: Salaries are on the rise. Of those who plan to hire, 26% report that they will offer higher starting salaries than in 2010.
It seems the employment market is looking up. And with the availability of social networks and online tools, finding and applying for a job is literally at your fingertips.
But, between job boards, social networking sites, online profiles, blogs, and more, there are hundreds of places for job seekers to stand out online—or go off course. So which tools and networks should you use, and how should you use them?
the power of networks
Dan Schawbel, personal branding expert and owner of Millennial Branding, LLC, Boston, describes the online world as a "shared human resources database" and encourages students to take the opportunity to stand out from the crowd.
"Companies are begging for ways to differentiate between candidates," says Schawbel. "All résumés are looking the same—we have enough people in the world who have the same hard skills. Now the new measure is your online presence. In many cases, it is the best communicator [who] wins."
According to the CareerBuilder survey, the top skill employers listed as desirable in job candidates (69%) was "strong written and verbal communications," which you can demonstrate through a blog, online videos, and other social media updates.
Heather Huhman, founder and president of Come Recommended, Washington, D.C., agrees. "Direct connections, referrals, and networking are always going to provide you with the best results," she says.
Traditional job boards should be an extremely small percentage of your overall job search strategy, but you shouldn't overlook them entirely, Huhman explains.
By tapping your networks and selectively using online job tools, you can raise your odds of being hired. Here is a list of 10 job search networks and tools that Huhman, Schawbel, and other career experts recommend.
1., 2., and 3. linkedin, twitter, and facebook
LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook continue to dominate social networking with a combined user base of almost a billion, says Schawbel. In addition to their size, these networks work well for job-searching because you can tap people you're already connected with.
To maximize effectiveness on LinkedIn, you should optimize your profile by making it complete, join and participate in groups, and actively build and expand your network. There are hundreds of ways to use Twitter as a job search tool—this article lists 50. Facebook, for many people, still straddles a fine line between personal and professional—use accordingly.
4. brazen careerist
Brazen Careerist is a career management network for next-generation professionals. The site skews toward a younger demographic, with a professional yet community-oriented network. You can build a social résumé, network with peers, find job leads, and do more to advance your career.
Promising to "keep your résumé from the shredder," Résunate helps you create a perfectly tailored résumé by comparing experience from an old résumé, LinkedIn profile, or other data against job descriptions.
VisualCV provides a branded Web page, where you can add multimedia elements such as video, audio, images, graphs, charts, work samples, presentations, and references. On the site, you can search for jobs and apply directly using your VisualCV.
JobFox automatically builds private networks of contacts based on your career aspirations and professional interests. It interfaces with LinkedIn and Facebook, while also pulling from Twitter and company human resources sites to alert seekers of job openings. The platform provides your own branded website with a personal Web address.
Tap your networks and selectively use online job tools.
Jibe taps your LinkedIn and Facebook networks and connects you to people you already know at companies you want to work for. You can apply directly to jobs posted on Jibe, using your Facebook and LinkedIn information to develop a résumé and cover letter for each.
9. in the door
Similar to Jibe is In The Door, recommended by Schawbel as a new tool to tap your Facebook network. The application, powered by Indeed, connects to Facebook and displays all companies in your network that are hiring. Ask friends for introductions to companies directly through the site.
10. a personal blog
At the end of the day, Schawbel says relationships remain the most important asset in the job search.
"Job searching hasn't really changed. You're just starting it online now," Schawbel says. "Create an online presence, connect with people you are interested in, build those relationships—and then take them offline."