Get Hired in '08: Workplace Trends to Put You Ahead

New year, new job? The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that America will have more than 5 million more jobs than people to fill them this year … thanks to baby boomers retiring and fewer young people joining the work force. But you have to get in the game — the right game — to find the best job for you.

Collaborative recruiting is the buzz word for 2008, which means more people have a say in who's hired and referrals are more powerful than ever before. So instead of submitting your resume in what often feels like the big black hole, the newest trend in employment — for job seekers and corporate recruiters — is to use social networks like Facebook.com, LinkedIn.com and MySpace.com to get that all important referral.

Get connected. Instead of relying on your resume as the first contact with a prospective employer, your priority should be making direct connections to people who can introduce you to your next employer. Online social networks are your ticket to doing just that.

Sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace that were once exclusively for social purposes are now increasingly being used for recruitment — and that will blossom even more this year. Employers are using these sites to promote their job openings, their corporate cultures and even their benefits all in an effort to encourage you to apply.

One prime example is Ernst & Young, which created a major online presence for its recruitment efforts on Facebook. The accounting giant recognized that college kids were constantly on Facebook — more than half of the 60 million users go back to the site each day — and so the firm went to their turf to find recruits. But Facebook isn't only for college kids: The fastest growing demographic on Facebook is age 35+.

More than 500 corporations say they use LinkedIn as one of their primary recruitment tools. And there are 250,000 recruiters registered on the site — all on the prowl for new talent to hire. Beyond that, executives and employees from each Fortune 500 company can be found on LinkedIn, which also features exclusive job postings. So it's rich in resources for anyone looking for work.

The virtual reality site Second Life will see an uptick in its virtual job fairs this year, enabling people to log on to get hired for positions in the real world.

Find that referral. Once you've eyed a company or a position you're interested in, find someone who works there, or someone who knows someone who works there, and use that contact as a referral to submit your resume. Any time you can have someone hand deliver your resume — or forward it via e-mail for you — you dramatically increase the chance of it being viewed and considered as opposed to when you submit it into the big black hole online without a referral.

What's great about using these sites is that you can network with anyone, anywhere. You can search your alumni or professional associations, join a group in your city or an affinity one with similar interests to your own in order to find that employment "in" you need. Within hours of creating a profile on Facebook, for example, you can connect with dozens of friends — each of whom can provide access to even more people. You can also search these sites by employer name to find people who currently or previously worked at the companies you're interested in.

It's easy and free. Leveraging the benefits of the social networks is as easy as signing up for an e-mail account or shopping online. You don't need to know how to design a Web page to make an impressive listing. I assure you that anyone can navigate these sites. And it's completely free. Just go to each site to get started.

The other big plus — particularly for older workers — is that getting on these sites is one way to demonstrate that you're comfortable with the latest technology. That's the biggest knock against older workers: They haven't kept up and/or are reluctant to do so. Using these sites goes a long way at showing that you're as comfortable with new technology as anyone else, which makes social networks a great equalizer in your job search in '08.

Tory Johnson is the workplace contributor on ABC's "Good Morning America" and the CEO of Women for Hire. You can connect directly with her by sending a friend request to her account on Facebook.com or LinkedIn.com, or by visiting www.womenforhire.com