LinkedIn, Unemployment And The Online Job Search

FILE - In this May 9, 2011 file photo, LinkedIn Corp., the professional networking Web site, displays its logo outside of hea
FILE - In this May 9, 2011 file photo, LinkedIn Corp., the professional networking Web site, displays its logo outside of headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. LinkedIn said Wednesday, June 6, 2012, it is investigating reports that more than six million passwords have been stolen and leaked onto the Internet. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, file)

When Mark W. Riley of Little Rock, Ark., became unemployed for the first time in two decades, he ventured into the Great Online.

"Once I found out I was going to be laid off in April of last year, I realized how much job-hunting had changed in 20 years," Riley said. "The big advantage now is that in order to give people the opportunity to see my work ... I'm able now to put all that stuff online."

Riley, a 54-year-old marketing expert, created accounts on LinkedIn and YouTube, where he uploaded commercial spots he's created for educational institutions, grocery stores and political candidates.

"I had an interview yesterday and the interviewer had already taken a look at my portfolio, based on the links I'd put up," Riley said. "So that was a big improvement over what it was like 20 years ago. [Back then] I either had to open up a big notebook or ask, 'Have you got a VCR?'"

Riley's doing what job counselors (and even the government) tell unemployed people to do: Get online. It's a phenomenon LinkedIn cofounder Allen Blue said will revolutionize the economy and empower jobseekers.

"The world of employment, the world of how the economy functions, is undergoing radical change right now because of big data," Blue said in an interview at The Huffington Post's "What Is Working" jobs expo in Tampa, Fla. (More than two dozen companies and nonprofits have partnered with HuffPost to search for ways to reduce unemployment. LinkedIn is pitching in with an online forum and data on job openings.)

"Within a few years there’s going to be tremendous perception of what’s actually happening at all levels of the economy and we’ll actually be able to see it clearly, really, for the first time in history," Blue said. "The great thing about it is that that power’s actually going to be in the hands of the individual job seeker."

The power is also in the hands of businesses, Blue said. "Every single employer out there is like, 'Thank god for LinkedIn and Facebook. I know so much about the people I'm hiring.'"

More than 5 million Americans have been unemployed at least six months, and studies have shown even a short period of joblessness makes job seekers less attractive to potential employers. HuffPost asked Blue if all that knowledge about job candidates can be a disadvantage for those with gaps on their resumes.

"I'm told it can," he said, "but the ability for me to find information about them –- see what they’re interested in, see what they care about, see who they hang out with, see what kinds of things they’re learning, skills they've acquired ... We’re putting a huge effort right now into collecting skill information."

"That's on your LinkedIn profile. You’re now out there in front of lots of people who could discover you through that path. Every new piece of information you stick on that profile is a new path to finding you."

While he's joined LinkedIn and is connected as much as possible via social media, Mark Riley is also planning self-promotion of a more old-fashioned variety. He's drafted several versions of a "Hire me!" advertisement to put on billboards around town, as soon as he can find a way to pay for it. The ads show Riley's smiling face and direct people to his LinkedIn page.

"My father was the general manager of Donrey Outdoor in Little Rock for many years," Riley said in an email. "Billboards put food on the table and put me through college, so I believe in them as an effective advertising medium."