Many students and alumni think that Facebook and professional networking are like water and oil: They cannot be mixed. But, with more than one billion users on Facebook, and the number of connections a student or alum may already have there, it’s hard to deny there is great possibility to make connections on this network.

In 2013, Facebook rolled out a new way to search the social network called “Graph Search,” which it described as a way to “find more of what you’re looking for through your friend’s connection.

Graph Search has been rolled into Facebook’s search functionality for the site. The search capability allows a user to intuitively search Facebook, and the functionality is a bit different from a Google search. Students can use this in a professional way and reach new connections by typing in a search like “People who work for [insert organization name] and went to [insert college/university name]” or perhaps “People who went to [insert college/university name] and majored in [insert major].”

These types of searches would yield results of those who are both already friends and those in their existing networks. This could be a great way to meet new people who could have similar professional interests and could provide a connection or resource.

Beyond Graph Search, there are four key actions to take to use Facebook to build professional connections: creating friend lists, sharing professional status updates and articles, exploring company pages, and joining groups.

  • Creating friend lists – Creating a list for professional contacts is an easy step one can take to ensure proper information is shared, or not shared, with certain populations. This can be done by going to the friends list and choosing to “Create List.” Start with any current connections who fit this category and can add more members at any time.
  • Sharing professional status updates and articles – Once lists are created, it is easy to share certain status updates, photos, and other profile information with only select lists chosen. Conversely, one can also not share elements of their profile or updates with certain people or lists. Individuals should share status updates about job or internship searches, and professional status updates about projects, leadership positions, internships, or classes. In addition, many news sources have ways to easily share articles built into their platforms. This is an easy way to share what one is reading, which can help show interest in a certain field or industry.
  • Exploring company pages – Many companies and brands have a Facebook page. These are great places to see if one already has a connection in a network to a company for which one would like to work. Furthermore, pages are a great resource to find out what is happening at the company, get a sense of the culture, and what news matters to the industry. All of this can be beneficial when preparing for an interview or upcoming networking event.
  • Joining groups and topic pages – While not as prolific as Facebook pages, and a bit harder to find, groups can offer a unique way to network on Facebook. Search for groups relating to interests, internships, and industry preferences. If joining a group, become a valuable contributor to that community to help promote understanding, knowledge, and interest within that community. Facebook groups allow people to share pictures, videos, and links all within the group. Another benefit of groups is being able to e-mail group members very easily, which is not the case for pages.

Redbirds interested in developing or improving their social media profiles for professional use can get assistance from the Career Center by making an appointment with a career advisor or by visiting the Career Center during drop-in hours. In addition, the Career Center is hosting Linkedin for Job Seekers on February 9 and February 15 to help current students utilize LinkedIn effectively as a networking and job searching tool.

The Career Center assists all Illinois State University students with developing, evaluating, and implementing career decisions.

Article reprinted with permission by: the National Association of Colleges and Employers, “Career Counselor’s Guides to Social Media in the Job Search,” written by Kevin Grubb of Villanova University, Shannon Conklin of Temple University, and Megan Wolleben of Bucknell University.