With over 100 million users, Facebook is one of the most popular Internet social networking sites in the world. If you’re already on Facebook, you know how much fun it can be to read status updates, find long-lost acquaintances, and send cyber gifts. If you limit yourself to just the fun side of Facebook, you could be missing out on one of the most effective aspects of this powerful networking tool–it’s potential to further your career.
It’s a widely-accepted truth that the more people you know, the greater your chances of finding a job or encountering a professional opportunity. As recently as five years ago, jobseekers hoping to grow their professional networks relied on phone calls, emails, or formal letters to make contacts in their field of choice. The development of social media sites such as Facebook marked the beginning of a new age of communication. While it used to take hours to contact everyone in your address book, your message can be broadcast to an audience of hundreds in a manner of minutes on Facebook.
The immediacy and breadth of this technology make it a highly effective professional resource, when used correctly. Take a look at the following tips to help you begin to harness the professional power of Facebook.
1. Be yourself, tastefully.
Think of your Facebook page as an introduction to both friends and potential employers. Most career experts advise caution when selecting photos to post or deciding how and when to express yourself. Would you offer a job to someone who was always online during office hours or constantly degrading their current boss? Photos of your drunken weekend in Vegas might be best shared with a limited group of friends, so be sure to familiarize yourself with the security settings so you can be in control of who can access your profile.
2. Update your page regularly.
Try to monitor your Facebook site weekly to ensure that friends haven’t written inappropriate comments on your wall or posted photos you’d rather not show the world. Firefox offers a Facebook toolbar which can help notify you when there’s something new on your page. Share your interests and talents online, by creating links to your blog or uploading photos. You may be surprised by the opportunities and connections that could be triggered by a simple posting about your current hobby or latest interest.
3. Give and you shall receive.
Just as in the professional world, the old adage of “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” is true on Facebook. Spend time reading and responding to the posts of others in your social network. Answer questions when you can and help connect your contacts to one another when appropriate. Your efforts to help others will be remembered when it’s your turn to reach out for a favor or some important career information.
4. Use Facebook with discipline.
As any Facebook user knows, it’s a slippery slope once you start exploring all the possibilities this site has to offer. It takes discipline to be an active participant without whiling away hours of your time taking quizzes or watching YouTube links posted by your friends. Consider giving yourself a time limit for each session to avoid letting this site take over life. As with the Internet in general, there are plenty of apps on Facebook that are addictively fun and could easily gobble up half your workday. If you hope to use this site as a professional tool, try to minimize the games and silly apps you add to your page.
5. Join groups that are associated with your current (or future) profession.
There’s a group or cause for everything and anything on Facebook. Do some research to find and join the ones associated with your career and interests. Can’t find the group you want? Create your own and spread the word. Once established, the contacts in your group can be a valuable resource for career advice, support, networking, or event organization.
6. Continue to grow your network.
You never know who could help connect you to your next opportunity. The longer your list of friends, the better the chances that someone will be able to help when you’re looking for a physical therapist to shadow or a job in fashion design. If you are unsure about accepting friend invitations from certain acquaintances, consider creating a limited profile for these people to access.
With Web developers constantly creating new technologies, the possibilities for users on Facebook should continue to increase. Explore the site and don’t be afraid to experiment to discover how it can best work for your career.
Publish date: December 12, 2008