Facebook takes many forms: it's a social network, a photo album, and a game platform, among other things. But with the recent announcement of a partnership with agencies including the U.S. Department of Labor, Facebook may soon become another entity to its users: a job search site.
The social network launched "Social Jobs", an online platform that provides advice and tools for the job hunt from its partners at the Department of Labor, DirectEmployers Association, National Association of Colleges and Employers, and the National Association of State Workforce Agencies.
[Find out how social media can help and hinder a job search.]
While there is no official jobs tool within the online platform yet, there are ways for students and recent graduates to use the social network to their advantage professionally. Here are five tips for college students to use Facebook strategically while looking for a job:
1. Craft privacy settings appropriately: While it has become standard advice to set privacy settings on Facebook, some students have faced consequences when they've failed to follow this guidance.
"We've certainly seen instances where employers saw things on Facebook and decided not to extend an offer," says Lynne Sarikas, director of the MBA Career Center at Northeastern University's College of Business Administration.
While students should protect themselves by blocking potentially damaging content from the public, there can be a distinct advantage to crafting settings to cater to a specific company, says David McDonough, director of career services at Clark University in Massachusetts. For example, if you're a student interested in a music company, publicly displaying your musical tastes "could be beneficial," he notes, while settings may have to be more guarded if you're interested in a Fortune 500 company.
[See why your privacy settings can affect college admissions chances.]
2. Evaluate your profile picture: Although privacy settings may restrict what recruiters see on Facebook, they will be able to view your current profile picture. While employers are not supposed to discriminate, they could be influenced by a photo deemed inappropriate by their standards, Sarikas notes.
"It may be a great picture of you and your buddies with a can of beer in your hand, but that's probably not what you want an employer to see," she says. "And if that is the first thing they see, they're probably not going to call you."
When a recruiter is looking at a job candidate's profile picture, he or she is trying to picture that person in a professional setting, says Rob McGovern, founder of CareerBuilder and CEO of Jobfox. "I wouldn't say on Facebook to have a suit and tie on, but I would say [to] have something where an employer can visualize you as fitting into their culture."
[Learn how using the right photo online can help your career.]
3. Interact with companies: A student who is interested in career opportunities at a specific company should become a fan of it on Facebook, says Oriana Vogel, vice president for global recruitment and HR operations at American Express.
"We are seeing candidates come to us through Facebook," Vogel says. "We want them to come to us…and assess if we're the right fit for them."
Vogel says that American Express, which recently launched an "Amex Careers" tab on Facebook, has recruiters who monitor Facebook pages and interact with candidates interested in opportunities with the company. Others are following suit, too, says Dave Kerpen, co-founder and CEO of Likeable Media, a social media marketing firm.
"When people post on our Facebook page who are interested in our company, we get excited," Kerpen says. "Ideally, every company is looking for people who are passionate about their company, and candidates can take advantage of that by being active on those Facebook pages."
[Read about the increased presence of colleges on Facebook.]
4. Participate in Facebook groups: Monica Weber, a 2011 graduate of the College of the Holy Cross, applied to 168 jobs during her search before landing a position with a public relations firm in Boston. During this time, she interacted and networked with Holy Cross alumni and fellow job seekers in professional groups, such as the Young Professionals Network.
"They're a great way to band together not only with people with your same interests, but advisers as well," Weber says. "It's a great outlet for [college students]."
Jobfox's McGovern notes that recruiters who have connected with candidates on Facebook will look to see not only if the prospective employee is a member of professional groups, but if they engage in them as well.
"For example, if you are a member of software programming groups, and there's evidence that you're participating, that's good," McGovern says. "That's much better than joining a bunch of groups that you're never really involved in."
5. Tap into your network: "Getting a job has always been about who you know as much as anything else," Likeable Media's Kerpen says. "But the 'who you know' is multiplied by 10 from what it might have been 10 years ago thanks to Facebook."
[Learn six ways to network while in college.]
And with more than 800 million users worldwide, Facebook provides seemingly limitless resources and connections for job seekers, says Clark University's McDonough, who advises students to approach networking on Facebook as a way to get more information about an industry by messaging and engaging with employees at a company of interest.
And while not every job or connection you encounter will mesh with your career goals, the Facebook platform is a way for people to share with and support one another in the job search. For students who come across opportunities that may not be the best fit, Vogel of American Express says "paying it forward" in your network will, in turn, help your search, as people may then pass along opportunities to you in the future.
"If you see a role in a company that's not right for you but would be right for your network…post that job opportunity on your wall," Vogel says. "That's where I think the power of Facebook really comes in."
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