The New Rules of Online Job Hunting

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As any astute job seeker knows, the days of sitting on your duff 20, 30 or 40 hours a week while scouring the online job boards are over. But it's not enough to simply slap a profile on LinkedIn, or make a couple of pithy tweets, and wait to see whether any of your contacts announce an employment opening.

To truly be a web-savvy job seeker, you need to embrace the new rules of online job hunting. Follow them, and it could make the difference between a protracted employment hunt and starting your next gig before spring.

Scouring the Job Boards for Openings vs. Using Them as a Research Tool

Old rule: Mine the online job sites for employment openings to which you can submit your resume, but do so sparingly. The crafty job seeker knows when it's time to get out of the house and press the flesh.

New rule: Forget about applying for work through the online jobs boards and posting your resume on them for all the recruiters of the world to see. Instead, the judicious job seeker uses online job sites for research only; sniffing out which companies are hiring, what sort of candidates they're looking for and what experience is required. Then she'll mine her LinkedIn, Facebook and other online networks for a contact who can make an introduction to a mover and shaker at the companies she's learned are hiring. Why send your resume into the void when you can have a real live person at the firm you're targeting pass along your resume for you?

Relying on Your Resume vs. Creating an Online Presence

Old rule: When it comes to selling yourself to employers, your resume is your be-all-end-all marketing tool -- so much so, that you've forwarded it to everyone you've ever met in your life and posted it to no less than 39 job-hunting websites.

New rule: Gone are the days of your resume being your self-promotion mainstay. Today it's all about earning a rock star reputation online. "Use blogs and social networks to communicate what makes you a special and attractive candidate. Attract the right job opportunities by explaining what you're passionate about and the types of jobs you're interested in," said personal branding expert Dan Schawbel, author of "Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future."

Candidates who really want to stand out from the digital crowd may have to up the online ante, Schawbel added. Among his top suggestions: contributing articles to industry newsletters and websites, crafting a catchy video to promote your talents and creating a Google AdWords advertising campaign that points potential employers to your website.

Just-in-Time vs. Pre-Emptive Networking

Old rule: You lose your job. You tell your friends, relatives, neighbors and hairdresser that you lost your job and ask if they know anyone in your field who has an open position. Realizing you'd better meet some people in your industry's power seat fast, you join a professional networking group or two.

New rule: Don't wait until you're looking for work to start schmoozing up a storm -- do it now. "Regardless of whether you are looking for a new job, aim to establish meaningful, one-on-one relationships with individuals who share your career interests and are a few steps ahead of you on the ladder," said workplace expert Alexandra Levit, whose books include "How'd Your Score That Gig?" and "New Job, New You." That way, you'll be ahead of the game next time you find yourself searching for work.

Think about it. How would you rather conduct your next job hunt? By e-mailing 30 of your most trusted industry colleagues that you're in the market for a new gig, or scrambling to first assemble that cadre of 30 close colleagues?

Waiting for Hiring Managers to Contact You vs. Seeking Them Out

Old rule: Find a job listing on Craigslist, a corporate website or a traditional online job board. Carefully craft a cover note and tailor your resume to the job. Click "submit" and wait for the hiring manager to get back to you. And wait. And wait.

New rule: Why leave the ball entirely in the court of those doing the hiring if you don't have to? Rather than conducting a plain old passive job search, Schawbel recommends conducting "a people search." How?

1. Research which five to 10 companies you'd most like to work for.

2. Use Google and LinkedIn to figure out which positions at these firms best match your skills and experience, and to find employees on those teams or in those departments. (Get in-depth LinkedIn tips here.)

3. Use LinkedIn, Twitter and face-to-face professional events to get to know these employees. Avoid the temptation to ask if they can hook you up with a job.

4. Once you've established a rapport with someone at your target employer, ask them to help you set up an informational interview there and to forward your resume to those in the hiring seat. Even better if you've already done your contact a favor first.

"This way, you're connecting directly with people who can hire or refer you, which is the easiest path to getting a job," Schawbel explained. "This works much better than submitting your resume blindly into a recruiting database that won't even get looked at."

If you hit a dead end, don't give up. The more contacts you cultivate at your target companies, the better your odds of landing a position there. Happy new year, and good hunting to all!

This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.

Michelle Goodman is a freelance writer and former cubicle dweller. Her books include "My So-Called Freelance Life: How to Survive and Thrive as a Creative Professional for Hire" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide: Practical Career Advice for Women Who Think Outside the Cube." Follow her at @anti9to5guide.