But how do you work your social network effectively in an economy that has lost 7 million jobs?
"LinkedIn used to be your professional face and Facebook was sort of your family and friends presentation on the Web," says Michael Malone, director of career education and advising for the Columbia Business School. "It seems like those lines are blurring much more now."
Recruiters are increasingly turning to these and other social networking tools to post opportunities. Here's why: Facebook has more than 350 million users. LinkedIn has more than 55 million.
But the general nature of these huge networks can be distracting for people who want to target a specific career. Malone says people are using Facebook and Twitter in a more targeted way to find the content and contacts suited to their interests. And a host of industry-specific social networking resources have emerged.
NPR's New Jobs For A New Decade series has identified some of the areas in which new jobs are expected to be created over the next decade. These include green jobs and work in health care, technology, financial services and even video games. Many of these opportunities may be posted on social networking forums.
Monster.com has created more than a dozen online communities that offer professional networking for a range of careers from nursing to nonprofits.
"These are community destinations to share common interests," says Eric Winegardner, a vice president of Monster. "It's not just about your job search. There's content on these sites relative to your business."
CareerBuilder.com also has created a "talent community" called BrightFuse with nearly 30 groups from "The Nurses' Station" and "Information Technology Pros" to a sales group called "Retail Therapy."
Law And Social Order
Some burgeoning social networks not only target specific professions but also authenticate people's real-life identities to create secure networks that aren't searchable on the Web. The goal is to let people be comfortable sharing information and get advice without all of the information coming up the next time someone runs a Google search.
A case in point is Martindale-Hubbell Connected from LexisNexis. Michael Walsh, the chief executive officer for LexisNexis U.S. Legal Markets, describes it as "a combination of LinkedIn and Facebook for the legal community."
The service, which has about 24,000 members, provides a way for attorneys to search for future business, get legal advice and find a job. One feature allows users to cross-reference contacts they may already have established on LinkedIn. Each profile shows the law school a person attended and any articles they might have written. Users also can connect with Martindale-Hubbell's career center.
Walsh says LexisNexis' research found that 70 percent of lawyers use social networking tools. He says this number is extraordinary given how busy lawyers are and the extent to which they often keep information close to the vest.
More than 100,000 physicians are networking on Medscape's Physician Connect, an authenticated physicians-only service provided by WebMD.
Social networking connects them with "colleagues and their profession in a way they can no longer do in the physical world," says Dr. Steven Zatz, executive vice president of professional services for WebMD. He says physicians are going to fewer conferences and meetings these days. Although Medscape remains focused on clinical discussions, he says it also provides a forum for career advice.
Doctors, medical researchers and scientists also have found a home on Epernicus, which is open to anyone with science bona fides.
Dr. Vivek Murthy, a co-founder of Epernicus, who practices internal medicine and teaches at Harvard Medical School, says part of the value of Epernicus as a professional network is that there is no anonymity. Everyone knows who is asking and answering questions. The service also integrates personal information that is typically not on Facebook or LinkedIn accounts, such as a person's scientific expertise and publication record.
Malone of the Columbia Business School says one of the challenges job seekers face is how to find more "tailored connections and content" without having to belong to several social networks.
One solution is to use sites like JobShouts.com, which features a "social search" button to search for information about a company across Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Spoke and other sites with just one click. The Web site also posts jobs to a Twitter feed.