Hired! From campfires to career

For Mark Gentry, strong bonds from summer camp led to a great job after college.

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By Jessica Dickler, CNNMoney.com staff writer

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Thanks to camp connections, Mark Gentry, here with his girlfriend, recently got a job as an education program specialist.
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Strong bonds from summer camp led Mark Gentry (far right) to a job.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Facebook has become the playground for finding old friends, but for some job seekers, it can also be the key to finding employment.

Like most college students, Mark Gentry had a Facebook page he used to stay connected to friends. It didn't factor much into his job search, which was languishing even before he graduated from Stetson University in DeLand, Fla.

Nearly two-thirds of the college class of 2009 are concerned about finding a job, according to a new study conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Gentry was one of them.

"Like many of my fellow classmates, landing a job right out of college seemed very dim," said the recent graduate with a degree in management and a minor in finance. "I applied to over a hundred online postings and only got one legitimate response," which didn't result in a job offer, he added.

So Gentry turned his attention to a fall-back job in construction along side his father, until he received a friend request through Facebook from Kevin, a childhood acquaintance.

Kevin had been Gentry's camp counselor at the YMCA in Gainesville, Fla., over a decade ago. Like many Facebook connections, Kevin stumbled upon Gentry's profile and reconnected after a dozen years.

"We talked back and forth for a while catching up on how each other were doing and reminiscing about the past," Gentry said.

"Kevin asked me what my plans were after graduation and I told him how finding a job seemed nearly impossible."

But Kevin worked for a software engineering firm in Fort Collins, Colo. that was hiring. He put Gentry in touch with the recruiter and then the hiring manager.

After several extensive phone interviews, Gentry landed a job as an education program specialist, responsible for coming up with strategies to get schools and universities to utilize their software packages. He promptly moved 1,800 miles from home just days after graduation. His new boss? Kevin, his old camp counselor.

"I am truly a fortunate person to have gotten the job that I did," Gentry said. "It goes to show you, you never know who will have an impact on your future," he added.

Social networking to success

Our career experts agree that in today's job market, social networking plays a very important role in the hunt for work.

"As social media has blossomed, more and more business connections happen on Facebook," said social media expert and president of Affect Strategies Sandra Fathi.

Because users can easily connect with fellow alumni from elementary school, high school, camp, college and so on, it's "a great way to broaden your network," Fathi said.

And when it comes to job hunting, generally the more people you connect with the better, added Barbara Safani, President of Career Solvers in New York. "You want a lot of diversity in your network," she said. "Anybody is a potential contact for a job search."

But those looking to make career connections through Facebook or other social networking sites should keep their profiles professional, the experts said, and that means taking down questionable pictures or comments that could be misconstrued.

"You don't have to make it devoid of personality, but you also want to make sure you don't have objectionable content or highly charged content up there," Fathi said.

"Just don't position yourself in a way that your credibility could be compromised," Safani warned.


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