Almost as soon as Guang-Yu Xu was laid off from his engineering post at a Silicon Valley Internet company last month, he visited LinkedIn.com and updated his job status from “current” to “past.”
Through their interconnected contacts, he soon heard from headhunter Robert Greene, one of more than 530,000 recruiters trolling the professional networking site for job candidates. Within a few weeks, Xu had three offers. He started at Mint.com, a personal finance website, two weeks ago.
Welcome to the well-connected recession. As economic woes deepen and more people compete for fewer jobs, personal introductions to potential employers are more important than ever. Millions of Americans are turning to social networking sites such as LinkedIn, which has 37 million members, to seek an edge in landing work.
Job searches on the site rose 51% in February over December, according to David Hahn, LinkedIn Corp.’s director of product management. The number of job applicants doubled in the last six months, and more people are adding connections and getting recommendations — even those who are still employed but growing nervous.
“As people are feeling less secure and more concerned about their careers, they are really investing in their professional network,” Hahn said.
They’re still heading to traditional job sites such as CareerBuilder.com, Monster.com and Yahoo HotJobs. Traffic to such sites is among the fastest-growing on the Internet, according to research firm ComScore Inc.
But job hunters also are blogging and reaching out to friends on general networking services such as Twitter and Facebook, as well as to narrower communities such as TheLadders, which is for people seeking salaries of more than $100,000. It’s all about making connections and building a personal brand, said Forrester Research senior analyst Jeremiah Owyang.
There’s at least one downside: The trend toward online networking could hurt job seekers at both ends of the age spectrum.
Older workers may not be entirely comfortable with the technology, said Celeste Calfe, president of the Assn. of Career Firms of North America. And younger workers know their way around social networks but don’t necessarily know enough people with the connections to get them a job.