Social networking provides new playing field for U.S. job seekers

Almost one-in-five people surveyed from the United States are going online in their hunt for work, however many are growing nervous about the potential career fallout from personal content on social networking sites, according to the latest survey results from global workforce solutions company, Kelly Services.

The findings are part of the Kelly Global Workforce Index, which obtained the views of approximately 97,000 people in 30 countries, including more than 18,000 in the United States.

The survey shows 19 percent of respondents secured their most recent position through an online job posting, second only to "word-of-mouth" referrals, used by 28 percent, followed by recruitment/staffing firms (16 percent), direct approaches from employers (16 percent), "other" methods (14 percent), print advertisements (7 percent), and social media sites (1 percent).

Even though a small percentage of people actually secured their most recent job through social networking, almost a quarter (22 percent) are scouring social media sites, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, seeking job openings or promotions.

The survey, conducted from October 2010 through January 2011, shows that while social media is on the rise as an employment tool, so too is apprehension about the damage it can have on careers. More than a third of respondents admit to deliberately editing content on their social networking pages to avoid career problems.

"Social media sites allow candidates to focus exactly on the job they want, even the company they want to be employed by. As a result, we expect to see an increase in candidates' use of online job boards as time goes on," says Michael Webster, executive vice president and general manager, Kelly Services. "It makes sense that as the workforce evolves, the method in which individuals search for employment will evolve as well. "

Results of the survey in the United States show:

  • Facebook is the most popular social media site for Gen Y (aged 18-29) respondents to look for work but LinkedIn is the preferred platform for Gen X (aged 30-47) and baby boomers (aged 48-65).
  • 20 percent of respondents say they are worried that material from their social networking sites could adversely impact their careers.
  • 29 percent of Gen Y respondents say it is essential to be active on social media in order to advance their careers, but only 22 percent of Gen X and 18 percent of baby boomers feel the same way.
  • Almost a third of respondents say their employers have social networking policies that regulate use at work.
  • Industries where employees are most active in online conversations include IT, Business Services, and Engineering.

And despite the rise in popularity of social networking, the vast majority of respondents (66 percent) spend an hour or less per day on social media sites, while 22 percent spend no time at all. Only 11 percent spend an hour or more each day.

"There is no doubt that social networking has fundamentally changed the way people search for work and exchange information about career opportunities. The technology is re-shaping the job search landscape and it is up to individuals to ensure they are tapping into the best elements of the Internet in the social world," Webster concludes.

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