Dear New Shrink/Katie,

“I have heard that most jobs are never posted; that if I want to find a job I had better get with it and learn about networking, especially online networking. I am clueless about the difference between Twitter and Facebook or any of this stuff. And it scares me. Do I really want to put myself on these different Web sites? Please explain.”

Signed,

“Out of the Loop”

Dear Out of the Loop,

Perhaps you are referring to that startling statistic-sources suggest that some whopping 80 percent of jobs are never posted? It is true that most people find out about jobs through the people they know, something we refer to as networking. However, for most, networking is a scary thought and like you, many of us have no idea where to even begin or feel as though we simply do not have time. Although various social and professional networking sites can enhance the networking process, we are still left wondering which sites will actually help build your network? Before reading any further please keep in mind that this is just one part of building and forming your network but it can prove to hold very successful results. I hope the following will help you understand the basic differences between the major online social networking sites.

Twitter is a relatively new online craze that allows individuals to remain (or get) connected to friends, family and colleagues through quick, and frequent messaging. Similar to the idea of a blog or virtual diary, Twitter allows your followers (i.e. friends who read your Twitter) to gain quick updates on your status, how your day went, or even your current job search. While its nice to help you remain connected to those you already know, it might be a helpful tool to broaden your network. One of the key features of Twitter is the key search function allowing you to locate other users’ Twitter accounts who focus on different topics. Interested in “marketing?” Simply type this word into the search feature and you’ve got access to the most recent posts fitting into the marketing category. While Twitter offers a lot of great and easy ways to remain connected, one must also consider the potential ramifications. Let us not forget “Cisco Fatty” and her recent incident blogging a bit too much about having to balance a new job offer and fat paycheck with work that she really wasn’t interested in. Her offer was compromised because her new employer saw it on her Twitter account. Always remember, if you post it, an employer or boss can find it. Be mindful of what you put online and be sure your Twitter updates enhance, not inhibit, your job search.

Facebook originally started as an online version of a “yearbook” for college students. While it started out as a small network of universities, this phenomenon has now grown to include teens, parents, and even employers. This free Web site offers social networking to friends, family, colleagues, and almost anyone who is willing to accept your “friend” request. A friend is simply someone who has access to view your profile and is listed on your profile as a “friend.” Facebook allows you to join networks based on a topic of interest, school affiliation, location, etc. and allows you to interact with people around the world with a simple click. Facebook also allows users to upload photos and tag others featured in those photos. Other features include “poking” someone to say hello, updating your status to reflect your current mood or state and writing on someone’s wall (a public display of messages). While there are privacy settings available on Facebook, keep in mind that everything you post should promote your networking purposes this includes the people you are “friends” with.

MySpace is one of the most popular of the social networking sites, boasting almost a billion hits per month. While many may discuss Facebook and MySpace in the same statement, there are notable differences between the two sites. MySpace allows far more customization where users can change the look of their profile including adding music and images to the background free of charge. Like the other social networking sites, MySpace is an online community of users but has a slightly younger focus; anyone over 14 can create a profile. Your MySpace profile is viewable by just about anyone unless you choose to make your profile private, in which case it is not viewable by anyone thereby limiting your online networking capabilities. MySpace is a great service for fun and is really best fitting for those who are musicians, artists, actors and entertainers who need a way to market or showcase their talent.

LinkedIn is an easy-to-use professional networking site that connects professionals to trusted colleagues and can be used to stay in touch with colleagues, build your network, collaborate on projects, or investigate new opportunities. One of the unique features of LinkedIn is the ability to request others to write you a recommendation that is then posted on your profile. This feature allows potential employers and those in your network the opportunity to learn about you from another person’s perspective.

As one friend so clearly put it, meeting someone on MySpace is like meeting someone in a bar, Facebook is like meeting in a workshop or class, Twitter is like a chat room, and LinkedIn is like meeting at a professional conference or workplace. Now that you have a general idea of the basic differences I’d like you to consider which site, or sites, will best fit your job search goals.

Katrina Davy is a professional career counselor who has worked in university and private settings. She holds degrees from Columbia and Cornell universities. Send your questions to newshrink@gmail.com. All questions are kept anonymous; let us help you with your life matters!

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