Networking is a key strategy for finding a job. In the past, networking meant going to networking meetings, contacting people you knew personally, or asking friends and colleagues to introduce you to people they knew. These are still valuable ways of tapping into the "hidden" job market.

Today, however, these networking methods are not enough. Job seekers and career changers need to become familiar with and take advantage of online social media. Increasingly, employers are using professional sites to find new employees and to check into the backgrounds of people who have applied for positions. Studies indicate that thirty percent or more of employers now use social networking sites to connect with potential recruits, and an even larger percentage use networking sites to check into the backgrounds of those who apply for positions.

If you are not utilizing social networking to develop your online presence and "brand", not only are you missing out on tremendous networking opportunities, but you may also be damaging your job search. Many employers view having an online presence as an essential element for prospective employees.

In this article we have listed several social networking sites to help you see the scope of what social media offers you. If you have not yet developed an online presence, begin with LinkedIn. Invest time not only in developing your professional profile, but also in learning how to utilize the available networking opportunities.  The more you "work" the network, the better it will work for you.

Social Media Sites

To begin developing your professional online network, here are two sites to get you started.  If you do not yet have a LinkedIn profile, begin there.

LinkedIn.com -- a key social networking site for professionals from around the world, currently with more than 20 million members; a site in which you can promote your site and what you do, develop relationships with other professionals, and ask and answer questions.

Facebook.com -- Although seen primarily as a fun way to keep in touch with friends and family, Facebook can also be helpful when you're looking for employment.

Here are some additional sites catalogued at quintcareers.com. (Please note that listing them in this article does not indicate an endorsement.)

Other job and business-related social networking sites:

Company of Friends --  Fast Company magazine's global readers' network. claims to have been the very first business social network. Fast Company readers have self-organized local discussion groups, mentoring and networking organizations, and creative problem-solving teams.

Ecademy.com -- Ecademy's aims "to build the world's largest trusted business network by connecting people to each other - enabling knowledge, contacts and opportunities to be shared for world wide wealth."

Jigsaw -- an online business contact marketplace where marketers, recruiters, and sales people can buy, sell and trade business contact information.

MediaBistro -- is dedicated to anyone who creates or works with content, or who is a non-creative professional working in a content/creative industry. The site's mission is to provide online and offline opportunities for meeting each other, sharing resources, becoming informed of job opportunities and interesting projects, improving career skills and showcasing work.

MyWorkster.com -- specializes in building exclusive, professional College networks. Through these networks, members get connected to exclusive career opportunities.