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Network your way to a new job

Finding a new job is difficult at any age in today's economic climate. But there is always hope. Here's some tips about making the most of social networking to find a new opportunity:

A Twitter conversation led to a job for out-of-work financial adviser Susan Schwartz of Boston, who answered a finance-related question posted by someone she followed on the social media network. When she received a tweet thanking her for her answer, Schwartz offered her accounting services, and a job was born. You don't have to be Twitter-savvy to find leads via social media; LinkedIn and Facebook are also deep resources for job seekers.

Don't wait for an actual job posting. Instead, create a need or foster the connections, so that when someone expresses that need, you're ready to fill it. This often means using conferences and social media to connect not just with those in your field but with those positioned to create new jobs.

How to do it: Start with a LinkedIn profile, considered an essential online resume, and get as many rave recommendations as possible from previous bosses and coworkers. (Many potential employers will go here first.) Then join every possible group frequented by those likely to hire you. Get familiar with all of LinkedIn's interactive features, and use them to be an active presence on the site. Comment on conversations, post links that show you're up on the latest developments in your field. Use Facebook, Twitter, Google +, and online networking groups and sites targeted to different professions to do the same.

"You don't have to become an expert in social media, but it's important to see its value in raising your profile," says Julie Rains, a certified professional resume writer in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Rains suggests thinking of social media in the same way you used to think of conferences and business networking groups -- as a way to reach the people who can help you get where you want to go.

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