I remember the first time I looked for a job - which was, incidentally, just like the last time I looked for a job. Hauling out a 5-pound Sunday newspaper in one hand and a yellow highlighter in the other, I underwent the laborious task of searching through manual-labor, nurse, and the all-encompassing sales openings to find something remotely in my field.
All that is now a thing of the past, thanks to your best friend and mine, the Internet.
Because of the nation's lowest unemployment rate in 30 years, sites such as monster.com, hotjobs.com, and dice.com have experienced tremendous growth in the past several months. Websense, the nation's leading provider of software to help businesses monitor employee Internet use, estimates that the number of Internet job-search-related sites has increased by more than 10,000 during the past nine months, to approximately 30,000. A robust economy, coupled with low unemployment, adds up to a job market that favors the employee with a wandering eye - and résumé. In a "grass is greener" environment, people are switching jobs with the frequency of a short-wave radio
Advantages for Everyone
A major advantage is the decreased cost of using the Internet rather than more traditional means, such as attending job fairs, placing advertisements in newspapers, and headhunting from other companies. The speed that Internet job sites provide is another reason why online search sites are so popular. For example, it took four to six weeks to hire a new employee through old-fashioned means. Now it only takes one to three weeks with the increased exposure that job sites have.
Few discussions about the Internet are complete without a mention about Internet privacy. This is certainly a concern when posting your résumé online. In an interview with cnet.com, Eileen Kohan, executive director of USC's Career Center, issued words of caution: "Only put your e-mail address" on your résumé, she said. "Don't put any other directory information because you don't know who is looking at it. People don't need to know where you live until they want to interview you."
And what about this doomsday scenario: If I'm already employed and post my résumé online, what are the chances that my present boss will find it and correctly assume that I'm looking to leave?
Many Web sites have a privacy feature, letting you control who sees your résumé. "You have the option," said O'Neill, "of sending your résumé directly to the employer that you're applying to without your résumé going into the general résumé databank. You don't have to worry about your present employer seeing it."
Here are some tips for using the Internet to initiate your next career move:
Be meticulous. Never, ever submit your résumé with typos and other blatant mistakes. Your résumé is your calling card. It's your very first impression. You don't get a second chance. If you can't write well or have doubts about writing your own résumé, hire a résumé-writing service instead. It's well worth the extra ducats.
Include a cover letter (unless told otherwise). It's been a standard practice for eons, and it makes you look professional.
Protect Your Privacy. Some online résumé services, recruiters, and job sites ensure your confidentiality, while others indiscreetly blast your personal information to anyone and everyone who's willing to take it. If you're worried about confidentiality, include your e-mail address, but not your phone number or street and business addresses. Consider using a temporary Web-based e-mail address like hotmail.com or mail.com just for this purpose. If employers want to contact you for more information, they will by e-mail. If you're submitting straight to an employer or a site that guarantees your privacy, then it's okay to include the typical contact information that you'd include on your paper résumé. Never publicly post your references - that is, if you want to keep them as references. Instead, include a statement in your cover letter that you'd be happy to provide references at some point, like during your first interview. Or simply type "References available upon request" at the bottom of your résumé.
Lastly, remember this: If the Internet is your exclusive means to look for work, you're probably half-stepping. It should be a part of your mix, not the whole enchilada. Networking with professional organizations, internships, and face-to-face contact is still a good way to go.
Robert Jackson, Jr., is president of Deep River Media, a consulting firm dedicated to providing strategic business guidance to corporations that hope to take advantage of Internet e-business opportunities. His Internet address is (http://www.deeprivermedia.com).