Looking for a job? Maybe you’re a victim of the down economy, or maybe you just don’t like the job you’ve got. Maybe you need a permanent gig to focus on while your REAL passion stays on the backburner (until you’ve saved enough money to make a go of it, at least). I’m sure you’ve used job search sites like Monster, CareerBuilder or Indeed, and I’m sure you’ve poked around Craigslist.org for available positions in your field. But have you thought about using Facebook to aid in your job search?

Mashable featured a story recently about how job seekers can put Facebook to work for them. This does not mean posting a daily update of “still looking for a job! Anyone got a position for me?” Instead, the Mashable article focuses on how you can turn Facebook networking into some prime opportunities for career growth. Here are their tips for using Facebook to find a new job…

1. See that news feed? Read it. You’ve connected with dozens, perhaps hundreds of people on Facebook, right? Old friends, old college buddies, even old work acquaintances are probably part of your friend list. Sometimes, those people will post to their news feed about job openings they know about, and when they do, you need to be ready to jump on the opportunity. Since you will have already connected with most of your Facebook friends on a personal or professional level (and probably in person at least once), you’ll be in a unique position to stand out from the crowd of applicants. If one of your Facebook friends posts an update about a job, and you think it’s a job you’d like to do, reach out to them and express your interest! Put your network to use for some actual networking.

2. Join Facebook groups about what you want to be doing. There’s a Facebook group for just about every interest (and if one doesn’t exist, you can create it). So search for groups that reflect your expertise and what you want to do for a living, and sign yourself up. This will give you access to updates that focus specifically on your field and also allow you to connect with others who share your interest. You could find job postings in these groups, and you could also post about your own skills and offer your services for gigs that become available. Facebook groups let you stay connected to the people and events that pertain to your job interests without having to know all of the users as “friends.”

3. If there’s a company you want to work for, “Like” them on Facebook. Let’s say there’s a particular corporation you’d love to become a part of. But maybe they don’t have any openings at the moment, or you’re not considered qualified based on your resume alone. All is not lost; go find the company’s Facebook page, “like” the company, and you’ll be able to keep track of news and updates from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. You’ll also be able to post to their wall, which can help you become visible to those on the “inside.” The Mashable article mentions one woman in particular who wanted to be part of a travel company in order to become a destination wedding planner, but her lack of travel experience set her back. She “liked” the company on Facebook and followed all their updates, so when the company posted about needing travel advisors, she asked on their wall whether they ever hired destination wedding planners. Someone from the company’s marketing department contacted her shortly thereafter, offering to pass her resume along, and today, she’s a contractor for the travel company. Connecting with the company on Facebook opened doors that would not have been opened to her otherwise, and the same could happen for you if there’s a particular company you’d like to work for.

4. Look for contests. Some companies post contests on Facebook in order to attract new interns or staff members. The Mashable article talks about a company that offered an internship to the person who got the most “likes” to their page. The winner was a guy who spread the word around his social networks, asking friends and acquaintances to take a minute and “like” his page so that he could get his dream internship. Today, he’s still working for the company, and he says that he gained valuable marketing experience and respect for the power of social media by having to market himself to his online circle. Other companies hold similar contests on occasion, so keep an eye out for a chance to win your own internship or job via a Facebook contest.

5. Don’t be afraid to speak up. Many companies use their Facebook pages as a way to interact not only with customers and potential customers, but also as a way to interact with potential employees. They don’t want dry resumes and stuffy interviews; they want people who participate in the dialogue, weigh in with their own opinions and aren’t afraid to put themselves out there. Being able to connect with job candidates on a Facebook page creates a sort of informational interview and assessment, a means for the real go-getters to rise to the top and show off what they know about marketing, programming, or whatever the field might be. It also lets the company maintain a list of people they consider to be pre-qualified for positions that might open up later, so if they need someone in a hurry, they can go to the Facebook page and invite applications from those with whom they already interact (and whom they already trust). Take initiative and be ready to start a dialogue or be a part of what’s being talked about on a company’s Facebook page, and you’ll put yourself on their radar for future job opportunities.

Facebook is a great way to connect with old friends, but it’s also a great way to pursue job possibilities that have never existed before. In your job hunt, be sure to include Facebook to ensure you’re covering all your bases and taking advantage of every possible tool at your disposal!