By Eve Tahmincioglu
msnbc.com contributor
updated 5/10/2010 7:00:05 PM ET 2010-05-10T23:00:05

Kacie Kubik, 23, graduated last year from the University of Florida and had a job waiting for her at BDO, one of the biggest accounting firms in the nation.

How did this Gen Yer land a gig during tough economic times? No, it wasn’t a page on Facebook or a carefully crafted Twitter tweet.

Kubik, who at the time of her hiring didn’t have a LinkedIn account, never tweeted and only used her Facebook page for family and friends, got her job the old-fashioned way — reaching out to the company, getting to know the managers at the firm, and working for BDO during the summer before her senior year.

“I hear the hype,” she said about social networking websites, “but I have not heard of anyone getting jobs that way.”

Social networking sites have been hailed as the ultimate Gen Y job-hunting tool. But don't fret if you don't have hundreds of connections. As it turns out, you can still snag most jobs the old-fashioned way.

A 2009 poll of large U.S. employers conducted by CareerXroads, a staffing and recruiting company, found that less than 1 percent of external hires — which includes new openings filled by people who are not in-house — could be attributed to social media sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Among that 1 percent, LinkedIn represented 60 percent of hires. "Despite the hype, hires are not easily attributed to social media," according to the survey's authors.

Developing contacts
While social media is a great way to develop your contacts and help your career development, most recruiters looking to hire college graduates use social media as a supplement to their recruiting processes, said Sandi Guy, partner and national director of human capital at BDO.

“If somebody is putting all their eggs into social media, you are missing a boat,” she said.

Her recommendations:

  • Go directly to company websites to get information about firms and apply for jobs.
  • Post your resume on job boards.
  • Take advantage of campus recruiting efforts.
  • Join associations and go to events.
  • Have a page on a social networking site such as LinkedIn.

If you had to cut one out, she said, the social media piece would be the least important.

About 90 percent of graduates get a leg up by connecting with firms during campus recruiting efforts and proactive job searching, while only about 10 percent have an advantage because of social networking, estimated Julie Smith David, associate professor of information systems and director for the Center for Advancing Business through Information Technology at the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.

But David still believes social networking sites are an important job-hunting tool, especially if you’re in an industry that relies heavily on social media such as marketing, public relations, the media, or graphic arts. “There are a lot of communities graphic artists can join to share their work, and they should be developing an online portfolio,” she said.

If you can use social networking to demonstrate your skills and interest to prospective employers, she said, it could open up doors. But those doors will slam shut if you’re not providing anything of value. For example, if you’re on Twitter and not driving people to credible content with your tweets or if you come off looking unprofessional on LinkedIn, she said, the strategy could work against you.

An online presence
While engaging in social networking may not be a prerequisite for a gig, Gen Y job seekers should have some sort of cyber presence just so they don’t look like they’re afraid of technology. Most recruiting experts and hiring managers recommended having a simple LinkedIn page with your background information, just like a resume.

Most younger job seekers tend not to think of LinkedIn because it’s more of a professional site, said Melissa Donaldson, senior director for talent acquisition at CDW, a major technology reseller based in Vernon Hills, Ill. But “that’s where recruiters are spending a lot of time.”

CDW primarily hires Gen Y workers and is planning on bringing on between 500 to 1,000 new hires this year. The majority of internships and entry-level hires are still being made through traditional channels, she said, but social networking is becoming more important, especially as a way to promote the company.

Since a growing number of employers are using Facebook or Twitter to promote their company, you may want to check out some of these sites, but not necessarily as a networking tool. “Even if you’re never going to tweet, there’s a lot on Twitter that can be useful to a student from a resource perspective,” said Ross Herosian, senior specialist for the internship program and HR projects for SIRIUS XM Radio.

If an applicant is looking for an IT or marketing job, Herosian said, involvement in social media or blogging is a definite plus.

But even though Herosian said he loves sites like Facebook and uses them often, “I put a lot more weight into the resume and interviewing. If you find someone who’s passionate, if they don’t have an online presence, that’s fine.”

One worker Herosian found who had a passion for broadcast was Brandon Renbaum, 22, a programming intern with SIRIUS XM radio.

Renbaum got his gig with no help from social media. “I viewed sites such as Facebook and Twitter as nothing more than trivial ways to avoid face-to-face communication with people,” he said. “To be honest, I believed that Facebook, and especially Twitter, were geared more towards young females who love to gossip and chat about idle events.”

Now, however, he sees the value in it for his future career advancement once he graduates in the fall from The Sheffield Institute For The Recording Arts.“Through LinkedIn, I found people in my field of work that I believe will help me in my future endeavors and assist me in finding a career,” he said.

Think strategically
Cleary, social networking sites are growing, so it’s not wise to disregard them all together. According to The Nielsen Company, traffic for social networking sites topped 300 million as of December 2009. The largest of these sites is Facebook, followed by MySpace, Twitter, Classmates and LinkedIn.

Social networking sites focused on the industry you want to go into or that reflect something about you may also be helpful.

For example, sites that cater to minorities such as BlackPlanet.com, or veterans such as MyVetwork.com, are among the niche sites CDW’s Donaldson looks at when seeking job candidates.

The bottom line is figuring out which sites, if any, are right for your career path. Just don’t get caught up in social media hype and sign up for the newest phenomenon or you’ll end up wasting valuable job-seeking time.

David, the professor at Arizona State, offered this advice:

“For Gen Yers, I encourage them, if they’re going to spend time in social media spaces, to think strategically, develop a reputation and a long-term expertise in an area. If you jump around you will demonstrate nothing, and it’s not going to help you at all.”

Diana Gialo contributed to this column.

Eve Tahmincioglu writes the weekly "Your Career" column for msnbc.com and chronicles workplace issues in her blog, CareerDiva.net.

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