Everyone is trying to save money these days, whether they’re employed or unemployed.
So what does the job seeker on a budget do when he or she needs new software?
In addition to cruising Google’s free software catalog, job seekers can also look to open source tools.
The following eight open source software applications were referred to me by Palamida, a provider of software that helps companies track and monitor the open source applications they use.
Palamida selected the eight tools below because “they’re well-supported, well-regarded and consumer-friendly” and because the communities that develop them “provide timely patches, updates and security fixes,” according to a spokesperson for the company.
Depending on your familiarity with open source software, you may or may not already be aware of these applications.
They are free, open source alternatives to many commercially available software products, such as Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.
Without further ado, here are eight free productivity, publishing and communication applications:
1. Opengoo is a web-based suite of office applications.
2. Scribus is a desktop publishing system, similar to Adobe Illustrator, that’s designed for laying out pages and typesetting.
3. TextPattern is a content management system for creating blogs and websites.
4. Gimp is an alternative to Adobe Photoshop photo editing software.
5. Kino is an alternative to Final Cut video editing software.
6. Pidgin is an instant messaging application.
7. Mozilla Thunderbird is an e-mail client.
8. KPresenter is the presentation software that’s part of the open source KOffice suite.
Some of these open source applications may be particularly useful to job seekers who want to differentiate themselves with blogs and eye-catching text- and video résumés, but who can’t afford the expensive publishing, photo- and video editing applications necessary to execute such projects in a high-quality way, says Erica Zeidenberg, the spokesperson for Palamida.
“Lots of people at home don’t have Illustrator or Photoshop because they’re very expensive,” she says.
“By contrast, these open source tools are easily available. Because you can download them for free, they open up whole new approaches to differentiating yourself that you may not have otherwise pursued. These tools can help you step up your job search without spending any money.”
Obviously, the above list is not the end-all, be-all of open source applications.
Using Twitter in your job hunt
What about using social networking tools in your job hunt?
We’ll now talk about one that’s becoming incredibly popular today: Twitter – a social networking and micro-blogging service that allows users to send and read other users’ updates (known as tweets).
Last November, Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research analyst, Jeremiah Owyang estimated that Twitter had 4-5 million users.
A blog entry last month on Compete.com – a Web traffic analysis service –ranks Twitter as the third largest social network – after Facebook (the largest) and MySpace (second-largest).
Most Twitter fans say they their realtime conversations (Tweets) are a good way to keep in touch with busy friends. But recently there’s been growing interest in Twitter as a potential business tool.
But you must take some steps to be a good Twitter citizen before you tweet yourself into your next gig.
We spoke with some career and social media experts on how to utilize Twitter for the purpose of job seeking, and the ways in which you can promote your own interests while helping others at the same time. (As you’ll find, you can’t do one without the other).
Overall, it’s important to remember that Twitter is about exchanging ideas and letting people know more about you based on the content of your tweets.
Know who to follow
If you want someone to think about you when a job opening arises, you need to get on that person’s Twitter radar.
One way to do this: follow the key people in your industry and watch their updates closely to see what types of topics and projects interest them the most.
For starters, use Twitter’s search tool to look for certain keywords of interest. After you search, the results will show people who are tweeting those terms; then you can scan their public profiles to see if you should be following them.
This can also help in your content strategy (more on that in the next section).
“From all the job success stories I’ve heard of [on Twitter], one thing remains consistent: you have to build your follower list on Twitter before you need them,” says Dan Schawbel (@danschawbel) , a personal branding expert, and author of the upcoming book Me 2.0.
This message rings true to Aaron Mentzer (@mentzdog), who found his job as director of communications at MyExpertSolution, a Web-based company in Provo, Utah that provides mental and emotional health services.
Through Twitter, he met many locally based PR professionals and initiated conversations over industry topics.
“At one point I arranged to meet several of my Twitter colleagues for lunch, so we could meet in person and establish a ‘real’ connection,” Mentzer says.
“A month or so after our lunch meeting, one of the colleagues I met on Twitter recommended me to a prospective client as a possible fit for them. I met with that company the next day, where they offered me a job on the spot.”
If you begin following people in your industry and you’d like them to follow you back, make thoughtful replies to their tweets by putting the “@” sign in front of their Twiter user name. Just like on Google, we all tend to look when our name gets mentioned.
“Many job seekers get jobs who have a thousand or more Twitter followers that they’ve built relationships with over time by supplying them with valuable content and insights,” Schwabel says.
Choose Content of Your Tweets Wisely
If you’re interested in getting noticed by people in your field, you must choose the content of your tweets very carefully, experts say. That means be specific and avoid the trivial at all costs.
“Talking about your lunch won’t attract people who want to hire you,” says Jeremiah Owyang (@jowyang), a senior Forrester analyst who researches social technologies and writes a blog on Web Strategy.
“Talk about the project you’re working on. If you’ve been laid off, talk about the project you’d like to be working on.”
You should share links to content you read on blogs and media sites that are relevant to your field, too, says Phil Rosenberg (@philreCareered), president of reCareered, a career consultancy.
In addition, link to other places on the Web where you’ve engaged with content, whether it be a blog post of your own, a comment you made to an article, or content on your LinkedIn profile.
“You can use Twitter as a megaphone to other places,” Rosenberg says. “As long as you keep it around a central branding theme, you can help people get an idea of the types of things that interest you professionally.”
As for the don’ts?
Well, it might seem obvious (and the Twitter horror stories have been pretty well-documented at this point), but avoid bad mouthing previous (or current) employers, and watch for the tweets that, while perhaps honest, offer too much information.
“If you’re looking for a job, don’t tweet something you wouldn’t want your mother to read,” Rosenberg says.
“If you’re younger, don’t talk about going out partying tonight or how you were partying so hard that you can’t imagine getting through work. That’s obviously not something a future employer would want to read.”
Designing your Twitter profile
Be sure to use a good, recognizable head shot in your Twitter profile, says Schawbel.
In terms of the profile information, you have to write a biography in 160 characters or less, so make it count and try to cram in a keyword that will be recognizable to others in your field (such as “business analyst” or “project manager”).
You are also allowed a URL in your Twitter profile. For most people, unless you have your own blog where you talk shop or a personal Web site that lists your career highlights, use your LinkedIn profile, says Schawbel.
If you find the current profile too limiting, you can customize your Twitter background to include more pictures and links to your professional endeavors. (For more details, see this thorough how-to guide on how to customize your Twitter background).
Elsewhere on the Web, you should consider integrating your Twitter feed. If you have your own website or blog, you can embed your Twitter feed on top of it fairly easily with RSS and other feed-based technologies (the way to do it changes depending on the service, but it’s generally not hard).
For more generic sites, such as LinkedIn, you can add your Twitter profile URL to your list of websites, or place links to it in one of your LinkedIn applications.
Tweeting it Forward
Many recruiters watch the Twitter community, keeping an eye out for ideal candidates, says Rosenberg.
One of the way you can stand out to these critical contacts: refer colleagues to them and help others before you help yourself.
“Recruiters are dealing with hundreds or thousands of candidates,” Rosenberg says.
“The only reason they help you above someone else is if you help them do their job. If you want to get considered for jobs in the future, help them pass information along or refer candidates to them. That’s the best way to endear yourself to a recruiter’s heart.”