Will the Web Replace the Business Lunch?

The site has some advertising and recently began selling subscriptions to businesses and recruiters who can set up accounts for $15 per month. LinkedIn also charges $95 per month to list job openings.

The benefit for subscribers, Guericke said, is having access to a wide network of professionals who may not be actively searching for a job but still make good candidates. That's an advantage networking sites have over traditional classified listings or job-finder Web sites like Monster.com, who might not have access to the same pool of people.

"On regular job sites, recruiters only find one subset -- that's active job seekers. But there's a passive candidate pool, and sometimes those are the best job candidates," he said.

Tinker said the access to a larger pool of potential hires might be attractive to recruiters.

"If they're functioning as a head-hunter or a lead aggregator, that's not a bad model. That would be a neat way to broaden the list of people who might be interested," he said.

Putting a Name With a Face

Another business-related site, Ryze.com, claims to be the first Web site to use a networking model. It initially launched in 2001. Company founder Adrian Scott said the site was at first a haven for entrepreneurs in the tech industry who shared ideas about building a business. Its user base has since grown to more than 350,000 -- representing a wide array of industries and members in more than 200 countries.

Ryze, which charges users $9.95 per month for a basic membership, also offers members the option of including a photo in their profiles.

"Remembering people who you've met only over the site is a lot easier if you have a visual cue. It helps people get to feel like they know each other," Scott said.

Other networking-based businesses like ZeroDegrees.com and Spoke Software offer users the chance to avoid the outdated mode of cold-calling and blindly sending resumes in a job search. The goal for all of these sites, Tinker said, is to become the one trendsetting site that attracts the most users. The best way for any networking operation to work, he said, is to become the location that people believe offers the most opportunities.

"If you connect with the influence generators, you succeed," he said.

For Chang, who had never used any online networking services prior to her job search, the experience is good enough that she plans to continue networking on LinkedIn, even though she's happy in her new job. She has updated her business information and added several new contacts since moving to California. She's even using it as a recruiting tool.

"I'm looking for a financial analyst for our staff, so I posted the job and I've already been in touch with two people from the site," she said.

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