Looks like unemployment may finally be turning around a bit, if the latest dip in claims filed is any indication. But on the ground, times are still tough for many people, as job creation still hasn’t quite balanced out the rate of job loss. Unemployment continues to hold at 9 percent, the same rate it has maintained for the last two years, and indeed in the real world, it seems that the ranks of the unemployed haven’t gotten whacked down quite yet.

If you’ve lost your job and find yourself in this boat now, then you’ll want to maximize your connections, especially your social networks. After all, the whole point of having “friends,” contacts and communities is to keep you connected, and never is this more important than when you’re looking for your next gig.
Although Facebook may be a favorite among recruiters looking to interact with students and grads, the big kahuna for professional online networking is still LinkedIn. It’s free, powerful, and probably one of the best tools in the hunt for a job.

Given your new status, fine-tuning that profile should be near the top of your priority list, so here are a few tips that can help. New York–based executive coach Sandra A. VanGilder recently offered Forbes these 5 must-do tips:

(1) Don’t hide the fact that you’re out of work: Some people feel embarrassed about being laid off, so they don’t make it crystal clear that they’re available. But there’s no shame in it, especially today. (Really, you are far, far from alone.) So don’t be too vague. “You exude confidence by not being ashamed that you’re between jobs,” VanGlider says.”…be very public about the fact that you’re looking for new opportunities.”

(2) Finish that profile: Maybe you let it languish for months or years, but you have the time now, so finish it up. Go for the full 100 percent complete. This can help your profile attract more views, and believe it or not, it can even make you a more appealing candidate.

(3) Give your Professional Headline another look: This is the highly visible bit that goes under your name, so this is pretty key. Do it right, and it could lead recruiters to check out the rest of your profile. You are basically labeling yourself in this space, so use a job title or short description that’s aspirational. In other words, describe where you want to go, not what you just left behind.

(4) Get rid of “Current”: Well, you’re out of work, so this means you really have no “Current” item. Move the job into the “Past” section, and then delete the “Current” heading. (Don’t forget to update the “Experience” section.) Yes, the job will show an end date. And yes, that’s okay. (See #1.) If you don’t like leaving it blank, you can list “Actively seeking new opportunities.”

(5) Finesse that “Summary”: You want a good read that describes your talents, skills and accomplishments, but don’t write a novel here. Stick to a couple of concise paragraphs, no more. Conclude with a statement like, “I am currently looking for new opportunities in [ABC functions] and [XYZ] industries.” Example: “Actively pursuing senior human resources officer role in a collaborative environment,” or “Currently seeking to leverage my Equity Floor experience and education into Investor Relations.”

As for the rest of the profile, it’s basically a resume, so the standard tips apply: Use action verbs in your descriptions, show how you produced results in these roles, and proofread, proofread, proofread. But since this is online, not print, keep things concise and use relevant keywords. And don’t forget to hit up former co-workers, bosses and other contacts to write online recommendations for you.

When you’re finished, you may be inclined to hit save and forget about the site for a while — but don’t. Your profile shows your latest status updates, so even if it’s a quick note describing what you’re up to, get it in there. Otherwise, your profile may seem like it’s collecting dust. And if you haven’t already, look into joining some groups. This can actually be a very useful tactic: If you’re in a group with someone you want to contact, you can send a direct message — even if you’re not first-degree contacts, haven’t upgraded to InMail, or don’t have a mutual contact in common. That’s one benefit that can come in really handy.

You may also want to keep tabs on Facebook’s new “Social Jobs” portal. Not quite a jobs listing site (though that may come down the road), this is more like a one-stop shop for tools and resources hooked into the Department of Labor, National Association of Colleges and Employers, DirectEmployers Association, and the National Association of State Workforce Agencies.

Have you ever gotten a job via LinkedIn, Facebook or another social site? Tell us your story in the comments below.