Suddenly, or maybe not so suddenly, social networking is everywhere. Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Twitter…and more like them are popping up daily. It seems that we are craving the need to speak to one another virtually. Never mind that we have cell phones, e-mail, IM, and text messaging, we seem to need these sites too.
I recently joined the Twitter craze and the Facebook craze. When I became Facebook “friends” with my neighbor down the street, he remarked (on my wall, of course), “Oh good…now we can keep in touch.” Now we can? The fact that we pass each other every day walking our dogs and driving our kids to soccer practice apparently now pales in comparison to being friends on Facebook.
I have to admit…it is a head-scratcher for me as to why this is such a craze, but craze it is, and now it is taking over the job search realm as well.
On the one hand, I’m relieved. Maybe now we can certainly prune off those ineffective job search boards and whittle it down to just the ones that actually post real jobs with real people at the other end of the Submit button. And God knows that for years us career pros have been shouting “networking” at the top of our lungs to job seekers. Furthermore, who can argue against the logic in building up a network of professional contacts in LinkedIn?
Certainly everyone seems excited by the possibility…dare I say “hope”…that these sites seem to bring to the job seeker. Now that I am on Twitter, I certainly see enough “tweets” going on about it.
So why am I a bit skeptical? Why do I get that uneasy feeling?
1. There are two key rules to conducting effective networking: tact and timing. If you go on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, and spend all your time (and it definitely takes time) building up your friends, contacts, fellow tweets, whatever, only to beg them to help you find a job, you probably aren’t going to get far. On Facebook, your high-school and college friends want to talk about what silly things their kids are doing and post old, embarrassing photos of you. On Twitter, you need to be just the right balance of sociable and aggressive to get people to even follow you or respond to you. (You need to find as many witty things as you can to say in 140 characters about what you are doing right now.) On LinkedIn, it is certainly OK to be more open about things, but generally you need to stay professional and make yourself sound as employed as possible (even though you are looking for a job).
2. I touched on this in #1, but it bears more discussion here. These sites are extreme time-suckers…an hour is like a minute and two hours is like a minute and a half. Don’t get me wrong. They can be entertaining and certainly enjoyable, but you need to be careful that all your time isn’t sucked up by them. Resumes still need to get out the door. Phone calls still need to be made. If you don’t watch out, they can give you the illusion that you are doing something toward your job search, when in fact little progress is really being made.
So does that mean I am against them? No, it just means that you need to be careful with them. A little too social, and you will walk away with lots of great tidbits about your friends, but you will have very little to show for it on the job search front. A little too aggressive on the job search side, and you will walk away without any friends.
Of course, all of that has been true for face-to-face networking as well. The difference here is that this type of networking is 24/7 and everywhere, so it makes those issues even more exaggerated in this arena. As a small business owner offering services in this same scene, I am well aware of the causalities in not getting the balance right.
That is why I am so much in favor of group job hunting, both in person (be it local groups, etc.) and online. In these settings, everyone is there for the same person, and the discussion is to the point. Job seekers can put their noddles together, swap leads and resumes, share advice, and so on. And no one is irritated that you are looking for a job.
I am a big believer that job seekers should try all kinds of ways to look for a job and should be aware of and focus the majority of their precious time and resources on those tactics that are the most effective. With that said, give Facebook and Twitter your all, but remember that there are other avenues as well, like group job hunting, that offer you more productive discussions and contacts.
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