The current job market sucks. Even the most educated and skilled workers are having a tough time finding work. The unemployment rate is the highest it’s been in five years and is expected to get even higher in the coming months.
In September, 6.1% of Americans were without jobs. This month the rate will likely top 7%. The forecast doesn’t get any better in 2009, when economists predict the rate to peak at over 10%.
Those out of work are frantic to find new employment, and those currently employed are preparing themselves for a time when they’re not so fortunate. At a time when many companies are cutting costs and axing jobs, “professional” networking sites, like LinkedIn, are cashing in.
LinkedIn, a social-networking website for the business community, has experienced a 25% increase in signups since the economy crashed late last summer. Since mid-September, the site has seen about 1 million new members every two weeks.
People are turning to services like LinkedIn because traditional networking methods, like “word of mouth,” aren’t working anymore. According to Nielsen Online’s latest numbers, LinkedIn ranks highest among those aged 35 through 49. The reasons for this aren’t clear, but it’s probably safe to assume that this age group never really caught on to the MySpace or Facebook craze. Instead, they prefer a more “professional” site like LinkedIn.
LinkedIn user Paul Sinnet can’t say enough about the benefits he’s experienced using the site. “I’m constantly in touch with where people are in my industry,” he said. “If I wanted to keep this up by myself, it would require writing or calling upwards of 60 people on a regular basis.”
For those who don’t yet have a LinkedIn account, it’s a good time to get one. Or if you’re like me and started a profile but never finished it, get cracking. LinkedIn is designed to make your network work for you. If you’ve been stuck in a professional time warp for the last couple years check out this LinkedIn “how to” video:
But what does ambiguous language like “make your network work for you” really mean? LinkedIn co-founder Konstantin Guericke said that LinkedIn works best for users who develop at least 30 contacts. These contacts can include people who work for you, have worked for you, and currently work with you. Contacts familiar with your work are best because they can give strong recommendations and provide introductions to other contacts.
Not all users, however, think LinkedIn is the next best thing. Cancelling a user profile isn’t as simple as a mouse click. Users must file a customer support ticket to terminate their memberships.
One member states that after two years of dutifully updating his profile, the only result he’s seen is a constant string of link requests. “LinkedIn is the visual equivalent of a chain letter–if you really want to contact a friend of a friend (of a friend), just pick up the phone,” he said.
He must be living in the dark ages, because we all know that if we’re going to contact anyone, it’s going to be by instant message or by email.
And if employers aren’t allowing employees to access LinkedIn from their work computers, they’re making a mistake. LinkedIn allows co-workers to build relationships, it allows salespeople to keep in contact with potential clients, and it is a valuable public-relations tool.