Don't throw out your Rolodex. But don't rely on it, either. Making contacts the old-fashioned way—simple face-to-face, hand-shaking interaction—still carries a lot of weight toward getting a job and building your network. Adding an Internet presence can expand your network and complements your in-person networking skills. You can meet only so many people at one event, but the possibilities on the Internet are endless. You can search for old friends or colleagues on LinkedIn or Facebook and connect with them. But don't just send them an invitation to your network or "friend them." Instead, establish something firmer.
"It's incumbent upon you to follow up," Karsh says. Referring to the automatic message that comes with an invitation to connect on LinkedIn, Karsh says to delete it and write your own. "Put in a personal note ... people are more likely to accept that invitation. They're more likely to remember you. They're more likely to start off on a positive step."
Leave social media misuse to the kids. It may sound simpler than you would think, but it still warrants a mention: There are ways you can abuse social media. Just as drinking too much at a social event or making inappropriate comments in a conversation can hurt you in face-to-face interaction, unprofessional things seen online—questionable photos, insulting comments, etc.—can damage you.
Most older professionals don't have 500 pictures from spring break in Cancún or wild birthday parties, but there is danger in putting too much of yourself in the digital eye. Recruiters and hiring managers are looking at the entire Web package, from your LinkedIn profile to your Facebook photos. That's not to say that you have to keep your Facebook profile private—"If your profile is private or I can't see you or search for you, I'm not going to be able to network with you," Karsh says—but be smart. "Don't bad-mouth anybody" in your Twitter or Facebook updates, Karsh explains. "Watch the things you say and post. Try and focus on the positive. I've seen and heard of many people who have gotten in trouble because of negative things they've said on things like Twitter."
In a harsh economic environment, where there are endless numbers of unemployed but skilled workers looking for their next job, understanding and taking advantage of social media tools can help you stand out and sell yourself. You can expand your network. You can meet new people. And who knows? Maybe you can find your way to a new job.