Finding Work Online: How Technology has Shaped the Job Hunt
Over the last decade, the internet has emerged as the primary way by which one looks for jobs. Rather than checking entries in area newspapers (which are all failing, going unread, or going online more than anything else) or milling local job boards, the unemployed or those looking to move up simply dig around on online job boards, on services like Craigslist, or the many websites for businesses that have a small section at the bottom labeled Careers for anyone looking to work with them.
These online job boards, as well as services like Monster, have had a huge impact on the way that we as people job hunt, taking traffic from just about everyone and everywhere else. Virtually everyone I know looking for work scours Craigslist constantly for opportunities, delivering countless resumes and cover letters (and even compiling sample assignments for no pay) even when there's no guarantee of a job or any form of payment after having done so. Monster even goes so far as to automate some of the process, with many employers asking only for resumes and not for troublesome cover letters, making interviews and potential connections happen faster than they used to.
Social networking can help people find work as well. By using a service like LinkedIn (or even Facebook), one can make connections with people they may not see regularly whose companies may be hiring. The social networking factor may suddenly give one a foot in the door where it wouldn't have existed earlier, or even let someone know about a position that otherwise would have gone completely unnoticed. In order to find out about interesting and engaging work, it may turn out to be utterly essential to keep up with these services no matter how you initially feel about them.
There are also now a whole lot of applications designed to make finding jobs easier when on the go, which job hunters can use to look for work even when not near a computer. Using some of them you can search for jobs by geographic region, transmit business cards and resumes, and receive email alerts when positions similar the ones you're holding out for become available, giving you a head start on the process of getting them.
However, this all means that everything is, overall, less region specific, and this means that the applicant pool itself is much bigger than it once was. Tons of people apply for almost every job, no matter how big or how small - a friend of mine was told that a coffee shop job posted on Craigslist that she got received over 150 applicants within only a few hours, and even calls for unpaid interns can receive obscene numbers of applications, as people are, in the face of this recession, utterly desperate - and this does make the process of applying for and getting a job considerably more daunting (and much more frustrating, as my job search saw me send out countless resumes and hear, from almost everyone, no response at all).
In order to keep up in this job market, we have to do what we've always done, but harder. Working connections and getting face to face meetings where possible puts you at a huge advantage as always, as it makes you something more than another resume and cover letter (if you had to submit a sample, that might help, too, since it at least serves as some gauge of performance). There are also other ways to work, such as online contracting services, but the job market is essentially a larger, wider version of what it once was.