Workforce Cast Offs Can Find Resources in the Social Net

Former CBS talk show host launches site to help laid-off cope with others

Plaxo, Ecademy and Ryze are a few of the more popular professional networking sites that help business people connect. With Ning, Syler was able to build a site that directly complimented her target audience—the unemployed.

The number of business professionals using social networking sites is increasing, found a survey conducted last July by Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., an outplacement consultancy group. About 10% of respondents said their companies view social networking sites as invaluable marketing, networking, and sales tools, according to the survey. In addition, about 22% of Americans use an online social networking site, up from just 7% in 2005, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.

Since African Americans are less likely to seek professional help so online support groups might provide help indirectly, advises Lott.

“The hazards of venting on a social networking site can be a tremendous for future employment. A lot of people use Twitter, a micro-blogging site, to vent,” says Wayne Sutton, a social media strategist who started socialwayne.com to help industry leaders navigate the social media landscape.

Many sites like Twitter and LinkedIn are public and someone’s profile can be viewed from a simple Google search. And because of that Sutton cautions people to be careful about what they write in the wide open World Wide Web. If a user applies for a job, it can hurt them if that company sees that they dealt negatively with a layoff.

“An employer wants to know that they can trust that individual,” says Sutton who advises visitors to check the privacy status agreement to see how and where the content from a site will be used. “You do not own that content and that can be used against you,” he says. “You have to be careful. Participate in conversations and let people know your skillset. But there is a difference between reaching out for help and venting. I wouldn’t say anything on a social networking site that I would not say in public to an individual.”

Visitors to sites like Ivebeenlaidoff.ning.com and similar sites can maximize the experience by keeping the following edicts in mind:

Protect your brand. “You should always be aware of what you are putting on line,” says Lott, who reported in the October issue of Black Enterprise that companies like Merrill Lynch and McDonald’s use LinkedIn and Facebook as a corporate recruiting tool. They also use it to weed out candidates.

Build a diverse network. A big part of the job search is contacts and networking, but networking comes in all different forms. You can build a network online that is just as strong as a corporate network. “You might be in one industry and someone might be in a different industry, but a social networking site helps bridge those gaps where you can help each other. You never know who has a job lead for you.”

You still have something to give. “There are some dark days. I remember those. One day you’re feeling great. The next day

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