I saw that some students, even from top schools and who are giving faculty candidate talks are posting a sentence like, "I am actively looking for a job in ..". Is this a good thing or only shows a desperate job candidate?
Your professional website is a summary of who you are and how you are currently presenting yourself publicly. If you are openly on the job market, then it is entirely appropriate to be frank about that fact on your website: just present it as a piece of neutral information, rather than making a big deal of it.
On a website, there's nothing wrong with such a statement. On the other hand, it's a much bigger problem to put "I'm actively looking" in a CV or resumé, where it could come off as seeming more desperate (or at the very least somewhat pushy, since a CV is sent for the purpose of looking for a job!).
But of course, context and phrasing are extremely important, and you'd have to look at the overall effect and impact of the sentence on the web page as a whole.
In common with many others in my industry (finance, and probably most other industries) I have two states of "looking for a job". Currently I am passively looking which means that my CV is out there and people can approach me if they wish and ask whether I would be interested in a particular job but I am not looking to change jobs unless something out of this world landed in my lap. Previously I was actively looking for a job; I was sending my CV to recruiters and trying to find a new position. This is because I was looking to change my position. Saying anywhere that you are actively looking for a job is at the very least a neutral statement but in many cases will lead to recruiters getting in touch with you because they know that they are likely to make money out of placing you in a job. This is particularly true if the statement is that you are looking for a job in a particular area or industry as it implies that you are focused on a goal and not desperate.
What would look desperate would be spamming recruiters and job boards with CVs aimed at no job in particular; this says to the recruiter that you are not interested in their particular job, have no direction in your job search, and are looking for any job that will take you.
I think such a line on a website straddles the line between
- I am interested in talking to anyone who might have an interesting job.
- I'd like it if a job looked for me, instead of the other way around.
The former attitude is very reasonable. I don't think I'd want to see just "I'm looking for a job" on a website of a potential employee. However, "I'm looking for a job. Contact me if you are looking for someone who wants to do cool stuff in Material Sciences (or just contact me if you are interested in talking about it!)" shows a slightly different type of personality.