These days a lot of people are looking for jobs. Recent college graduates are toiling in the land’s finest coffee shops and retail stores, waiting for their laser-printed diplomas and résumés to earn a laser-printed paycheck from a “real job.” 

Tens of thousands of college seniors are trading in plastic flip-flops for worsted wool business suits, hoping they can be among the lucky few who will clock in immediately after “Pomp & Circumstance.” Sadly, many have lost their jobs.  And many others are stuck in unsatisfying ones, keeping one eye on job listings while focusing the other on doing all it takes to keep even a dismal position.

The Internet has supplemented time-tested job-search tools – classified ads, headhunters, door-to-door cold calls – with a plethora of 21st-century alternatives. 

Online job boards vary from the general, like Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com, to industry-specific sites such as the self-explanatory BankJobs.com and Dice.com, which caters to the technology sector.

The art of networking has transitioned well from the pre-Internet days to the present, with social network sites expanding the job applicant’s reach far beyond word-of-mouth and face-to-face. One of the websites that can get a résumé or curriculum vitae (CV) through cyberspace and into recruiters’ minds and computer screens is www.LinkedIn.com. LinkedIn appears to be an effective way to network a professional persona, whether attached to a present job-seeker or not.

How to Get LinkedIn

The LinkedIn registration process involves setting up a profile that adequately reflects the jobseeker’s professional past and present. This is not Facebook; no one will be interested in last night’s dream or today’s breakfast. In the hands and quickly typing fingers of a job-hunter, LinkedIn can function like a résumé on steroids. Where a proper résumé is formal in format and tone, a LinkedIn profile page can expound on job experiences, giving potential employers a further look at potential employees.

Founded in 2003, LinkedIn touts itself as “an interconnected network of experienced professionals from around the world.” It enables individuals to establish a base group of contacts – called “Connections” in LinkedIn – upon which users can expand exponentially. 

The company history on LinkedIn’s website says they boasted 33 million members at the end of 2008 – a nice group of potential employers for any jobseeker.  There are a several different ways to fill a dance card with connections. The simplest, but perhaps slowest, way is to enter the e-mail addresses of contacts the job searcher already knows.  It is possible to search by the contact’s first and last name, but with 33 million LinkedIn accounts it may take some time to determine which “Mike Smith,” for example, worked in that accounting job ten years ago. 

A quick way to network is to import e-mail addresses from a multitude of sources – AOL, Gmail, Outlook, etc. – and let LinkedIn determine which contacts already are using their service.  LinkedIn will gladly send an e-mail invitation to contacts with currently inactive e-mail accounts.

However contacts are invited, they should soon begin to accept requests to be LinkedIn, and the time comes for the job-seeker to utilize this fresh online network to advantage. LinkedIn allows for messages to be sent to inform new connections about a change in employment status or a search for a new job.  This may lead to introductions through LinkedIn or in person. 

A job candidate’s chances for an interview with a recruiter may be enhanced by being connected to certain LinkedIn colleagues. A recruiter can potentially send a quick message to a reliable source to determine the candidate’s qualities. 

Another way to grow a list connections is to join groups within LinkedIn. These groups may be connected by geographic, industry-specific or educational (high school, undergrad or grad school) similarities. Well-run groups can host online discussion sessions, post relevant articles and even list job announcements pertaining to the group’s affiliated members.

In this or any economy, the key to effective networking for those seeking either to find a new job or enhance a present one is to clarify the purpose of networking. A detailed LinkedIn profile can help focus any job effort and is well worth the minimal effort of registering.