Facebook’s 1.59 billion monthly active users do everything on the social network – they express political opinions, post vacation photos, reconnect with old friends, announce their engagements, weddings, babies, new jobs, and lunch choices. One thing they don’t often do? Network.

LinkedIn is a niche site, built specifically for networking, but Facebook’s sheer size and prevalence makes it foolhardy to ignore the platform’s potential as a networking tool. In the United States alone, the number of Facebook users is almost triple the number of LinkedIn users. Facebook also has twice as many users over the age of 35 years than LinkedIn does – proving that this trend isn’t just generational. People also spend more time on Facebook – 53 billion minutes each month, compared to just 326 million for LinkedIn.

Facebook is also free, while LinkedIn offers Premium services at an additional cost, which includes deeper access to details about people in a user’s network, priority in recruiters’ search results, and analytics on how well a user’s professional profile is doing. While these services are helpful, the cost still disincentivizes some members from making the jump, with only 15.1 percent of members paying for Premium services. This stratifies the site’s members and makes the network less accessible and open to everyone.

While Facebook’s privacy settings also limit the information available automatically to everyone, they can also be useful. Knowing that they are in something of a walled garden allows users the chance to engage on an informal basis. Because people use the site to share such a wide variety of information, conversations aren’t often overtly career-oriented. When people connect on LinkedIn, on the other hand, it’s quite common for connections to immediately feel transactional.

Recruiting platform Jobvite found 67 percent of the people they surveyed using Facebook in their job search. As human resources departments embrace social media, recruiters are looking seriously at Facebook’s potential, especially to harness recent graduates and students who tend to spend much more time on Facebook than LinkedIn. Here are some tips to using an inherently social site for professional purposes:

Put Yourself Out There
Don’t be afraid to share professional work, career milestones, and noteworthy projects in your Facebook feed. Posting about the work you are proud of gives people a better idea of what your interests and passions are ­ – and how good you are at what you do. People who think of you in a purely social capacity – or as that quirky guy from a few jobs back who posts obsessively about his rare vinyl collection – may start to think of you as a good fit for a job opening at their company.

But Don’t Overshare
If you are cultivating a more professional Facebook networking presence, think twice before firing off political rants or midnight posts. Share selectively by updating your privacy settings so that the truly personal stuff gets a smaller audience, but don’t count on that wall to protect you if you say something outlandish. Anyone can take a screenshot of what you post, so don’t share anything you wouldn’t air in a room full of your peers. Remember that most of your contacts don’t talk to you every day – their impressions of you are formed solely by what you post.

‘Like’ What You Like
Everyone has contacts they haven’t actually talked to in years. If they post something that resonates with you, however, don’t be afraid to reach out through email, Facebook message, or a simple ‘like.’ The goal is to make your interests transparent and make new connections based on shared values.

Don’t Be Afraid to Reach Out
Use the “people you may know” feature to find potential contacts, but remember this rule of thumb: If they wouldn’t recognize you in person, don’t friend them. And whatever you do, don’t use the poke feature.

Take An Interest In Your Friends’ Interests
If you’re looking for a new job or connections within your industry, study up on your Facebook friends and their profiles – you never know which old contacts might be newly relevant to your career. You can glean a lot from people’s personal pages: shared interests and hobbies, hometowns, mutual friends, etc. Approaching someone by bringing up a shared interest is a softer way to begin a conversation than overt career talk.

Join Groups
Facebook groups can also be a useful place to find like-minded people in your line of work or help you discover a new job that you’ve never considered. If you can’t find one that suits you, start your own.

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