By Alexis Grant

Networking has long been the key to landing a job. But as social media plays an increasingly prominent role in how we communicate, the way we network is changing. Brazen Careerist, a career-focused social network used primarily by Generation Y -- the children of baby boomers -- today launched a new feature that adds an interesting twist to online networking: network roulette.

Now when users sign into Brazen Careerist, they can choose to be paired up, at random, with other professionals who use the site. They'll chat about their careers and job search, with the hopes of adding a new contact to their digital Rolodex. Network roulette is a spin-off of the popular video-chat website Chatroulette, but without the video; instead, it uses text-based communication, like Gchat or AOL Instant Messenger.

Unlike other networking sites such as LinkedIn, which allow users to connect with people they already know, Brazen Careerist helps emerging or transitioning professionals meet new contacts and build their networks. It also serves as a recruiting site, particularly for small startups looking for tech-savvy and social-media-savvy young professionals. Alexis Grant spoke with Ryan Paugh, Brazen Careerist's co-founder and director of community, about where this new feature fits into the networking game.

Can you tell us more about how network roulette works?

Network roulette is online speed networking.

The point is to help people get connected with a lot of people at once, skip the part of networking where you spend a lot of time making small talk and running up a bar tab. We give people three minutes to connect with each person. The two questions you answer when you start are, "What am I looking for?" and "What am I providing?" So we know how to match you up with other people in our community.

Some folks are wary of Chatroulette because you never know what type of stranger you'll end up chatting with. But network roulette is somewhat of a pre-screened participant pool, right?

Exactly. The people have been vetted ... They signed up for Brazen. They're there to connect with other professionals.

You encourage Brazen Careerist users to build a "social resume." Can you explain what that is and why today's job seekers should have one?

It's especially helpful for people earlier in their careers, Gen Y, and people later in their careers who are trying to reinvent themselves. It's about showcasing your ideas rather than your experience, because when you don't have experience in a job, the one thing you do have is passion and fresh ideas. So a social resume is all about the things that you're thinking about. It focuses on your ideas and your passion and your goals ... rather than your experience and what you've already done. It gives an employer a quick and easy way to see what you're good at. Employers will come and they'll look at this stuff and they'll find [job] candidates.

For job seekers who aren't well-networked, what else should they focus on?

Beyond Brazen, one of the most significant ways you can meet new people is blogging. That's how I got started with Brazen. We [blogged about] a topic that we knew was interesting and that the market was talking about ... We took the time to share our ideas and put out information that showed we were passionate. If you can write, definitely start a blog and talk with other professionals.

Blogging helps you build a network because you're not just speaking to cyberspace. Maybe you'll be speaking to cyberspace when you start ... but after that [first] month's over, you're going to start meeting people, other bloggers, other people who are passionate about what you're passionate about ... Blogging will build [your] credibility.

What mistakes do Generation Y professionals tend to make in the job search?

The biggest mistake is that we wait until we're at a point where we really don't like our job to look for the next thing. Just because you have a job that you love right now doesn't mean you shouldn't be out there, creating content through your job, looking for new opportunities on the side, and continuing to build your network. The people who have the leg up are the people who are constantly building their network and constantly meeting new people ... because [your job situation] can change overnight.

How do most of Brazen's users find jobs? What works for them?

That's why they're on Brazen, [because] a lot of the traditional methods haven't been working, haven't been yielding the best results. So what people are doing is networking and finding new and creative ways to [network] ... Networking is how people find jobs. They're [networking] through Brazen, through Twitter, through LinkedIn, through blogs.

I think the people who end up finding the best job are the people who are constantly doing favors, who are constantly putting themselves out there, who are willing to do some stuff for free to be likeable. Being likeable is one of the most important things when you're trying to network ... Your experience matters, but if someone doesn't like you, they're not going to want to work with you. Doing a lot of favors, doing things for other people for free, is actually a good way to start building your network and will probably help you with jobs down the line.

What other new or hip career websites or online tools would you recommend?

As far as career websites go, you really need to find a niche [online] community that has something that you're interested in. If you're interested in social media, go find a social media community to be part of. If you're interested in HR, go find an HR community to be a part of. There's so much generic career advice out there, the thing to do is to find a community [where] you're connecting with people who have the same interests as you. You want to get past [the generic career advice] and go straight to where the people are to start networking.

We hear talk of the resume going out of style. Do you think that's true?

No, I don't. I think resumes are still petty relevant. People think they can have a Twitter profile or a blog and they don't need a resume, but that's not true. A resume ... is what so many recruiters are used to. Maybe 10 years down the line, you won't still be seeing the resume, but right now ... don't be lazy and think you can get a job without having a resume.

Do you have any other career advice for new or recent graduates?

The one thing I like to tell recent grads is to be proactive and to think outside the box. One of the things that's really cool about being in a down economy [is] we have to try new things. We have to be innovative. That doesn't just apply to big companies, it also applies to us as job seekers and how we manage our careers. If you can't find a job, maybe you want to start your own business or do something you otherwise wouldn't have thought of doing. Don't be afraid to try new things. You'll be more likely to find success if you think outside the box.

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