For a doctor, engineer, or bank executive, managing a career network has never been easier, with sites such as LinkedIn and Doximity offering ways to make professional connections and climb to the next job.
But what about retail clerks, landscapers, and forklift operators?
A Cambridge company is trying to become the networking site for a large but overlooked segment of the US labor market, helping cooks, cleaners, and construction workers find jobs, build skills, and support others in similar situations.
These workers may be short on college degrees and their resumes may be interrupted by stretches of unemployment, but networking is no less important for them to get ahead, said Fred Goff, a former hedge fund manager and chief executive of Jobcase.com. In recent years, surveys by a subsidiary of ManpowerGroup, a Wisconsin staffing company, have found that networking is by far the most common way of landing a job, with two out of five people finding work through contacts.
It's harder for service and blue collar workers to connect on professional networking sites because the resume formats emphasize a continuous work history instead of skills, Goff said.
So last year he launched Jobcase as a LinkedIn alternative for the 70 percent of US adults without four-year college degrees. So far, the site has 48 million members and brings in about 1 million new visitors a month.
"It's a different population, with different attributes to defining success," Goff said.
Professional networking sites still dwarf Jobcase. LinkedIn reported about 414 million members worldwide. Doximity, a site for the medical community, said it counts nearly two-thirds of the 500,000 US physicians as members.
There's no charge to join Jobcase, which makes money from companies that want to host a page on the site with information about job openings. But Goff is trying to make Jobcase more than just a place to look at job listings. He wants to create a community.
For Rámon Johnson, 50, Jobcase was a resource when she needed advice on how to prepare and conduct an interview for a customer support job over Skype. She got several tips, including how to ensure that the lighting was right and the background space appropriate.
Johnson, who earned an associate's degree in her 30s, didn't get that job. But she kept using the site, sharing advice from her experiences and eventually catching the eye of a recruiting company. Johnson is now interviewing for an assistant staffing manager position.
"You have millions of people to tap for information," Johnson said. "We motivate and encourage each other."
Service and blue collar workers have mostly had to rely on sites that list jobs but provide few ways to connect, expand contacts, and find support.
Many of the conversations on Jobcase.com are about how to follow up with a potential employer after filling out an application — whether a visit to a store manager or a phone call to human resources is more effective. Some workers are looking for advice about how to navigate the hiring process in certain companies. Others are looking for support after disappointing interviews or tips on passing job-assessment tests.
One certified medical assistant worried that she wouldn't be able to find a job without experience. "How can I get experience if no one will hire me to get it," she wrote. "It's like a endless employment joke for people starting in the field they want. The only option that was given to me was to volunteer, but how will the bills get paid, right?"
Another member asked for recommendations of companies that are willing to hire workers with a felony on their record. "Anyone willing to give me a chance, I would greatly appreciate it and give my all," she wrote.
Lower-skilled service workers have been neglected by social networking, said Jerry Rubin, president of Jewish Vocational Services Boston, which operates one of the largest career centers in the state. But with unemployment down — 4.7 percent in Massachusetts in December, and about 5 percent nationally — labor markets tightening, and companies finding it harder to hire dependable workers, sites such as Jobcase may succeed, Rubin said.
"To have somebody open the door for you and vouch for you," he said, "is important at any level of the market."