When most students entered the Facebook realm of tagged photos, wall posts and poke wars, they did so with the innocent intention of sharing information with a network of mostly college-age friends.
Now, those students are preparing to enter the not-as-welcoming job market, and people are starting to think of the Internet for other uses than as a means of documenting a night of partying.
While some praise the benefits of building an online network, they do so knowing the potential dangers of having too much information available for the electronic world to see.
Adrienne LaFrance, who graduated from Boston University with a master’s degree in journalism in 2007 and is now the managing editor of the Honolulu Weekly in Hawaii, said she sees the potential opportunities in networking websites but remains wary about allowing just anybody access to her online persona.
‘I use [the sites] mainly as a social entity, but there have been times I’ve sent professional messages,’ LaFrance said’ ‘I’m just always careful about who I link to.’
LaFrance, who recently created a profile on LinkedIn, a professional networking website developed specifically for people to network in the professional world, said the type of information she includes on her online profile page depends on the website she is using.
‘I have bosses I’ve connected to on LinkedIn that I definitely wouldn’t do on Facebook,’ LaFrance said.
However, as the economic crisis continues to shrink the job pool, many students are adapting to the more difficult job market by using as many options as possible to get their resumes into the hands ‘-‘- and onto the computer screens ‘-‘- of potential employers.
Recession vs. The Internet
Though jobs are scarce and recession-weary businesses are cautious about hiring, different networking and job search websites are giving job seekers a better chance to compete for positions than they would have had in past times of economic hardship, according to Bob Dorne, President of R.A.D. Employment, a placement firm in Boston.
‘Employers aren’t looking for much in a job applicant because they aren’t looking, period,’ Dorne said. ‘I would take advantage of all the variety of approaches in finding a job and just hope that one works out.’
The unemployment rate in Massachusetts in November 2008 was 5.9 percent, up .4 percent from the month before, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, students who refuse to be discouraged by the rising unemployment rate are taking advantage of new opportunities created almost every day on the Internet.
In October, the School of Management launched its own version of the ubiquitous peer-to-peer networking website, in which SMG graduate students can network with other graduate students who work in the same fields,’ SMG Information Technology Services Director Gregory DeFronzo, said.
The website, developed by SMG IT Services Development Manager Amir Rashid and SMG employees Peggy Wang and Kathy Moore, allows students to post their resumes, pictures, industries and a link to their Facebooks or LinkedIn pages, DeFronzo said.
However, only 100 graduate students currently use the website, and it is not yet accessible to employers or other, non-BU students, causing some to doubt the site’s helpfulness, they said.
‘I think it would be a lot better for students that were undergraduates,’ SMG sophomore Mac Hewett said. ‘They’re the ones that don’t have any networking yet, and they’re also more hesitant to go and reach out to people.’
In response to student complaints, Rashid and DeFronzo said the site was created specifically for graduate students to network and will likely open up to more students in the future.
‘I have no issues with providing the source code and product to another college or university if they wanted to host it themselves,’ DeFronzo said.
While SMG’s website and professional sites, such as LinkedIn, to focus on professionals and graduate students, a new website launched in August provides alternative, less formal options for less experienced students in need of some extra money.
Recent college graduates Thai Ngyuen, Ben Herila and Scott Tamura launched Jobaphiles.com, a website in which employers can post jobs and students can ‘bid’ on’ positions by offering pay requests and explaining their job qualifications.
‘It provides an opportunity for employers to save money while the most qualified and interested students get the jobs,’ Jobaphiles.com Chief Executive Officer Ngyuen said.
Students can also make their own profiles and advertise their professional skills on the website, which currently boasts postings from about 1,300 employers, Ngyuen said. The job postings on Jobaphiles.com are mostly part-time jobs, he said, rather than full-time career positions.
‘It’s more focused on part-time jobs because that’s the shift you’re going to see,’ Ngyuen said. ‘Big companies are recruiting less. I think full-time employment will take a hit, but there will be an increase in demand for part-time employment.’
As students become acquainted with new online tools to fight against a recession, many have adapted slightly older online tools to work toward the same cause.
Turning a New Page on Facebook
Even with all the networking opportunities available on the Internet to help students wade their way through the limited job pool, most say they are not ready to let go of their Facebooks.
In fact, instead of hiding their Facebook profiles from the working world, some students said they are adapting their pages to be more professional in hopes of luring in employers.
As the managing editor of the Honolulu Times, LaFrance said she always checks the Facebook pages of potential interns, and has noticed that while some students keep their pages private, others prefer to display their educational and professional information.
‘There are a lot of people now who use Facebook as a way to create a hirable personality,’ LaFrance said.’ ‘Employers are definitely looking at Facebooks.’
Ronald Prudent, who graduated from CAS in 2008 with a degree in computer science, said he recently created a LinkedIn profile to network with professionals, but has also decided to use his Facebook as another professional networking tool.
‘I always felt Facebook was more of the social site to stay in touch with people, but it can also be used for business purposes,’ said Prudent. ‘I don’t feel like there’s anything to hide from employers on my page.’
The Pay Off
With so many different options to make information available to anyone on the Internet, some students say they are weighing the pros and cons of using such an open medium to determine if these websites are actually helping students get jobs.
Although COM career services specialist Joyce Rogers said she sees the obvious benefits of any kind of networking, she warns of the negative effects of putting any personal information online.
‘Some people are putting way too much personal information, and it’s dangerous,’ Rogers said. ‘Moderation of information and thinking about what you do before you put the information is key.’
Tyler Reilly, a 2008 BU alumnus who is now looking for a position in arts administration, said despite making his profile page employer-friendly, he is still wary.
‘I don’t know if there are photographs online that someone else took of me at a party that don’t paint me in most professional light. It’s a little frightening in that regard,’ Reilly said. ‘It’s almost as if the paparazzi are after you and splashing you on the Web.’
Despite the inherent dangers of the Internet, most students, recruiters and career advisors agree on the importance of online resources in finding jobs, especially in a troubled economy.
Catherine Ahlgren, assistant dean for the SMG Feld Career Center, said about 75 percent of jobs are found through networking, and students should utilize all available resources.
‘I think that any opportunity for networking is essential,’ Ahlgren said. ‘More and more students are taking advantage of professional networking sites because they tend to be more up-to-date than traditional alumni bases.’
Even though he has misgivings about the scope of the Internet, Reilly does not deny the importance of having an online presence, and has recently created a LinkedIn account to aid his job search.
‘One of the virtues of LinkedIn is that it basically has the capability to get you in touch with people you don’t know through people you do,’ he said. ‘Rather than asking people you know if they know anyone, you can just do a search and figure out who knows who.’