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Should You Use Facebook for Networking?

Should You Use Facebook for Networking?

By Caroline M.L. Potter, Yahoo! HotJobs

Social-networking sites are all but putting printers of business cards out of business. Instead of trading a small piece of paper, people are now trading names and tracking one another down on sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook.

While LinkedIn has a decidedly professional bent, Facebook can be a much more intimate look into one's personal life and inner circle of friends. Still, a lot of folks are on Facebook and use it as a professional networking tool. But is it right for you?

Because Facebook makes it easy to blur the lines between the professional and personal, most experts urge caution, unless, perhaps, you work in the entertainment industry. "When you think about Facebook and other social-networking sites, you have got to think about these profiles as an addendum to your resume," says Lauren Milligan, founder of ResuMAYDAY.

Career strategist Daisy L. Swan of Daisy Swan & Associates, agrees. "Now that there are so many people who are going to be looking for new positions, it's good to be able to be found -- so long as you're presenting yourself as the professional you want to be," she says,

Here are some tips to put your best face forward on Facebook:

Keep It Strictly Professional

Swan says, "Have a consistent message," meaning if you're marketing yourself as a top accountant, make sure your Facebook profile reflects that image. Milligan tells users to keep the social aspect separate. "I've had clients who've been way too attached to their Facebook pages and all the personal content on there," she says. "But I ask them, 'What's your priority? Finding a job or revealing all?'"

You can keep your business contacts and personal friends separate on Facebook with Monster's BeKnown app.

Mind Your Status

Your status can be used for more than goofy one-liners. "You can use your status to let people know about additional projects you're working on, which sends a message that you're more than just what you do at work every day," says Swan. Also, if you friend your coworkers on Facebook, make sure you don't accidentally throw yourself under the bus by revealing you weren't really sick when you called in sick to work.

Choose Your Friends and Groups Carefully

Whom you friend and the groups you join are a reflection of who you are. Think through the requests you accept and the company you keep on Facebook, because potential employers may take those things into account. One group of Virgin Atlantic employees started a Facebook group in which they openly traded insults and complaints about customers and colleagues -- and 13 of those workers were fired. "If you're an employee, you have to be considered an advocate of your employer at all times," Milligan says.

Mind Your Identity

Another plus of keeping your privacy settings high or, ideally, keeping your profile strictly professional, is that you're less likely to divulge personal information that could leave you at risk of identity theft. The personal email account of former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin was famously hacked by someone who successfully guessed the answers to her security questions. Avoid divulging your pets' names, your mom's maiden name and other details that could leave you vulnerable to fraud by including only professional details on any social-networking site.

Don't Get Sucked In

"I've been hearing that entrepreneurs are getting a lot of encouragement to be on Facebook and they're marketing full force that way," Swan says. "But it's not the be-all, end-all solution for marketing. It may have some value toward your bottom line, but it may not if you're spending too much time on it. Check your return on investment."

Milligan adds that Facbook cannot be your priority. "The time you spend on it cannot infringe on your professional life," she says.

As recruiters and companies look to Facebook as an additional source of finding new talent, it behooves you to at least be familiar with such sites. "In terms of new partnerships and for job search purposes, it can be a great networking tool to let people know about you, and it's a great way to learn about people and companies and options, Swan says. "Just be sure to use these sites in a savvy manner to your benefit."

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