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5 Social Networking Sites for Legal Job Seekers

Today’s legal job market is tough. To succeed, you need to use all the tools you can. Some of these tools require new rules, although all build on old-fashioned approaches, like networking and building a reputation. Here are five tools to bring your job search into the world of online social networking: Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo, Twitter, and JD Supra.

By Kristopher A. Nelson in

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Today’s legal job market is tough. To succeed, you need to use all the tools you can. Some of these tools require new rules, although all build on old-fashioned approaches, like networking and building a reputation. So here are five tools to bring your job search into the world of online social networking: Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo, Twitter, and JD Supra.

Facebook

Facebook is a social networking Web site focused on connecting people with each other. Many of us have now experienced the joy (and occasional pain) of (re-)connecting with people from high school, college, or law school through the site.

Many people have decried the negative aspects of Facebook in the job search, primarily the ability of potential employers to find personal information (such as drunken party photos, political/social leanings, etc.) out about you through the service. Although this can certainly be a problem for a naive individual, it should not keep you from using the service, provided you: (1) do not post photographs (or better yet, do not participate in situations) that you would derail your chances of employment (drunkenness, drug use, etc. – this is particularly true for legal professionals) and (2) keep your personal life confined (through various Facebook limiting mechanisms) to those who know you. If in doubt – don’t put it online.

From a job seeking perspective, Facebook will not find you a job. It is not Monster.com or similar job search site. Instead, it is an extension of old-school networking – meeting people, connecting with people, sharing with people. Use similar approaches on Facebook that you would use in person, but remember: Facebook is focused more on personal connections that professional ones, so treat it accordingly.

  • Do not attempt to “friend” business connections who you barely know via Facebook. (Save those for LinkedIn, next on the list).
  • Do let your actual friends know via Facebook that you are looking for a job.
  • Do search for people you may know who do work like you wish to do, or who work where you want to work. You may be surprised that you actually know someone who can put in a good word for you.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is like Facebook for professionals, minus the games, the sharing, the pictures, and everything else that makes Facebook so “sticky.” But these limitations are its biggest asset, because they turn it into a truly professional zone. Everything you put on LinkedIn should be professional, with only a passing nod to your personal life (to make you real). In terms of posting information to LinkedIn, it is best to think of it as an in-depth, network-enhanced resume. It is not for arringing to meet friends at the movies, nor for sharing your vacation pics to Cancun.

Unlike Facebook, LinkedIn is the perfect place to connect with business acquantances who you do not know well. In this sense, think of LinkedIn as your social Rolodex of business contacts, with recirocal connections, recommendations, and easy searching.

  • Do connect with those you meet.
  • Do not connect with people you have never met, unless you arrange an introduction (supported by LinkedIn). To do otherwise is to invite trouble and do your reputation more harm than good.
  • Do update your status on LinkedIn with professional information related to your job search.
  • Do search for companies and look for people you know there.
  • Do pay attention to “friend-of-friends” who you may be able to be introduced to through LinkedIn. This is a very valuable part of LinkedIn networking!
  • Do get recommendations from current and former co-workers. A LinkedIn profile of an active job seeker with no recommendations is potentially problematic, as it suggests that no one wants to recommend you!
  • Do keep your profile updated with current information.

Plaxo

Plaxo is in some ways like LinkedIn and Facebook: it connects people with each other. It has a more professional bent than Facebook, and in that way is more similar to LinkedIn (including an online profile hat is more like a resume than Facebook’s, for example). Its current incarnation is more focused on “lifestreaming”: gathering up and synchronizing your online life in one place:

Plaxo is about synchronizing all that’s important to you in one single place. It’s about staying in touch with all those who you care about… your family, your friends and your business contacts. With Plaxo’s Pulse, we keep you up to date with what your friends, family and Business contacts are up to.

  • You can Share photos, videos, reviews and more…
  • You can share content from the websites you use like Flickr, YouTube, Digg and a growing list of activity stream sites you can activate.
  • You can represent yourself on the web with your own profile. Choose what to share and with whom.
  • And with the Plaxo Address book, get the information you need for the people you know and Sync it to places you already use.
  • You Plaxo calendar syncs with Yahoo!, Gmail, Outlook, Mac and a growing number of sync points to make sure you don’t forget what you’re doing.

Plaxo is all this in one place and that’s why it’s the most efficient and fun place to be in. And most important of all, you decide who gets to see what.

It is worth it to establish a Plaxo profile while job searching, and keep it updated. (Not having recommendations on Plaxo is also less of a problem, as long as you have them on LinkedIn.)

Plaxo’s aggregation support for your online activities is powerful, but has the potential to mix your personal and professional lives together. Thus, be very careful of this.

  • Do establish and maintain your profile.
  • Do use the aggregation and synching tools, if they are useful to you.
  • Do not mix personal and professional updates.
  • Do use Plaxo’s tools to contain your personal updates to your personal friends.

Twitter

Twitter is a newer contender to the social media landscape. It permits posting short status messages, which may include links to articles, blog posts, pictures, etc. In a professional context – remember, you are job seeking – these status messages should stay away from “crazy party last night” and steer more towards the “excellent article, I recommend you read it.”

Unlike Facebook, LinkedIn, and Plaxo, connections in Twitter are one way: you can follow people, or they can follow you, but reciprocity is not required.

To find useful people to follow, look for those in your field. A good place to start is LexTweet, which aggregates legal Tweets – consider joining as well and participating.

My recommendations:

  • Do read about how others are using Twitter professionally.
  • Do keep your postings professional.
  • Do mix in some personal updates to be “real,” but remember – a potential employer may be reading them, so be judicious.
  • Do “add value” by Tweeting useful information.
  • Do not use tools to mass add followers, or similar “spammy” behaviors.

JD Supra

JD Supra is a different alternative to the above sites. Unlike the four above, it is focused exclusively on the legal community:

As a legal professional, you post your court filings, decisions, forms and/or articles to JD Supra’s database, a free tool for legal research. You also create an in-depth professional profile that is freely available simply by browsing or keyword searching, or via link from any of your posted documents.

A profile on JD Supra provides a useful addition to your LinkedIn and Plaxo profiles – but that’s not the core value of the site. The main point is to demonstrate your value to potential employers (and clients, for that matter) by sharing your work via JD Supra: filings, briefs, articles, etc.

At first glance, it may seem like you are giving your work away for “free” – but in reality, you are receiving value: respect. Your value as a lawyer, after all, does not come through directly selling your prior work – but rather in using your prior work to sell yourself.