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Online Social Networks: Driving You to Distraction?

Thirty-seven percent of job seekers find their next positions through professional networking, so the value of networking cannot be overstated when seeking a new job.  It's the basis for the latest online trend of using social networking sites, such as Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and Twitter. These types of sites can be very valuable but they can also drive you to distraction, causing you to lose focus of where the real value of networking is: face to face and over the phone.

All online social networking sites are built on the principle of connecting people. Yet, when they're used for job search networking, job seekers can be fooled into thinking that they're actually networking. You're only networking when you're face to face or voice to voice with another human. Social networking sites are valuable tools to cultivate introductions, and you should use these tools to get introduced to other people before you meet them in person, not as a substitute for it.

Using social networking sites as anything more can drive the user to distraction and waste a lot of time. For example, a job seeker can invest many hours editing his or her LinkedIn, Facebook or MySpace profile and spending less time cultivating their own contacts and requesting introductions to others. Twitter is another addictive site in which friends communicate and stay connected using short, timely mini-blogs. The illusion is that you're actually networking. What is actually happening is that you're having brief interactions with many strangers who barely know you and probably won't think of you when the right job opportunity arrives on their desktops.

Social networking sites can also give users the illusion that they're actually being productive in their job searches; you might feel as if you're making new connections but until you're face to face or voice to voice, you're not making connections of any value.

Use social networking sites in moderation and don't allow yourself to be distracted from real person-to-person networking. That's the "sweet spot" of networking, where someone gets to know someone better than they would in a brief, online interaction in which they see only words.

How are you building a network of contacts to support your job search? Share your thoughts here.

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