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Is Facebook Part of Your Professional Network?

Last year I wrote about a Facebook app called CareerAmp that was designed to help users discover more about how their friends are connected from a job search perspective through profile information about their employers. Networking was the long-term goal, but the app was unfortunately short-lived, although it evolved into a new format included in the list provided below. There are also several other alternatives to consider, focused on leveraging your Facebook accounts for career exploration and development, and professional networking purposes.  

New Job Apps

LinkedIn is often billed as the premier professional networking platform with more than 150 million members as of February 2012. But in recent weeks I've seen more evidence that Facebook, with "845 million monthly active users at the end of December 2011," might be a useful professional networking tool – beyond the social (i.e., stay in touch with friends) reputation that it is perhaps best known for. Here are several of the apps that aim to increase this kind of usability.

  • BranchOut: Advertised as "the #1 professional network on Facebook," this app is just two years old but has 25 million registered users. According to Mashable, the interface is similar to LinkedIn and allows users to submit their own employment profiles, receive recommendations, and connect with friends of friends. My quick tour of the app also revealed search features that make it easy to find out where your friends work and access related company pages.
  • The Who? Button: This is an evolution of CareerAmp, from the CareerArc Group, which aggregates information your friends have shared about their employment and presents activities that help you to make new connections based on your career interests. This one includes some game-like elements and quizzes.

Beyond specific apps for career-related information, The Unofficial Facebook Blog reported earlier this week that 58% of Fortune 500 companies have corporate Facebook pages. Businesses and organizations are building their presence on multiple social networking sites. And for students, it's more than just considering Facebook's potential for employment information as colleges and universities are also actively using these platform. This has been the case for years as schools increasingly embrace social media and networking sites for community outreach and recruiting initiatives. Facebook's Groups for Schools is for educational institutions and accessible only with .edu email accounts. This new endeavor is designed to "serve as hubs for campus-related groups." The Facebook social network is, and has been, expanding beyond just friends and family.

Balancing the Personal and Professional

How do we balance the need to conduct professional business and conversations online within the venues where we share our vacation pictures and personal family updates? This is a question many of us are struggling with as more of our lives – work, school, and family – are shared via social networking tools.

I recently commented on a thoughtful post by Ellen Bremen (a.k.a The Chatty Professor) responding to the related issue of Facebook Between Students & Profs:

"There are multiple variables to consider when connecting … via social media, and [I] agree that setting some ground rules before engaging is important. I have connected with online students via Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+, all of which are accounts I decided from the beginning would be more professional in nature. And while I do have a Facebook account, it’s where I connect with a handful of friends and family. … it seems too personal for use in a public way, however, I am contemplating the value of creating a separate Facebook account for more public/professional communication."

Creating a separate account is one strategy moving forward, and the one that I have recently embarked upon. This allows me to respond to comments on this blog via Facebook, (have you seen's new Facebook page?) and continue to discuss issues of online learning with so many others as with LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+. This split personality approach to social media is not uncommon, but also not easy to manage.

For those actively engaged in a job search, it will be particularly important to protect the privacy of your personal accounts, while establishing a professional online presence. Take the time to review all account settings and privacy options before selecting new apps and sharing your information online. A recent article from The Wall Street Journal also urges us to research each app, before we sign up, to find out what it may do with all of the information we enter beyond helping us find out about jobs. Set some ground rules for yourself and how you'll manage your use of social media as you seek out your next career move.

What are your thoughts on using Facebook for professional networking and job search purposes? Share your recommendations and techniques with us here.

Image credit: west.m, Flickr, CC-BY

April 20th, 2012 written by Staff Writers

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