Thoughts on the Social Media Job Search

July 22, 2009 at 12:40 am Leave a comment

Here’s an article Tom wrote for Max Gladwell

greencomputerMany of us are a somewhat adolescent when it comes to using social media. You’ll find the political set making blunders and fugitives exposing themselves. I’ve met preeminent scientists and Harvard, professors who are terrified by Twitter, and self-proclaimed networkers who only have 5 contacts on LinkedIn.

My Mum, who fortunately falls into none of these categories, would certainly be happier if social media had never seen the light of day. In fact, perhaps we should stretch that discontent to computers as a whole – she suffers a rare condition of inverse learning that ensures that the more she uses them the worse she gets (similar to my own algebraic affliction). At her current pace, it won’t be long before I’ll be receiving telexes… stop.

Yet the main source of her anguish is that her only son, yours truly, wouldn’t be living thousands of miles away if it hadn’t been for a random interaction on LinkedIn. That interaction resulted in me starting Bright Green Talent and my resulting global peripateticism. Fortunately the odd Skype video call helps alleviate that pressure. Although these are often interrupted by the perils of holding laptops to one’s ears, or teacups placed on keyboards. Or the rest of the family barging in to say hello (the following photo was taken during a recent call to my family – that’s mum, second left)!

Picture 8

Nonetheless, I’ve a feeling that her frustration holds weight. For all the advances in online participation, I’m skeptical about how much meaning we currently create online. Perhaps it’s time for me to retire too… If only.

Is it really possible to change the world on these new, crowded online platforms, where we need little bravery or skill to climb atop our soapboxes? Or are the creators of these platforms, the wickedly wealthy and status-anxiety-initiating youngsters like Mark Zuckerberg, the ones reaping the benefit? They claim to be connecting us, but are they really disconnecting us so that ‘connections’ can be made in an environment where they can monetize the interaction?

I’ll admit that my cursor has bravely hovered over the ‘cancel profile’ button on Facebook a few times. I’m still undecided as to whether the advantages, of Facebook particularly, outweigh the disadvantages – the (ridiculous) concern that people are having better lives than you, the lack of privacy, and the wasted time spent dawdling. I’ll admit that my bravery leaves a little to be desired.

From bright-green-smallBright Green Talent’s perspective – that of helping people find green jobs – we hear frustration from both employers and jobseekers. Certainly job searching is potentially easier. At the touch of a button on the larger jobsites, such as on Monster, Dice or Simplyhired, I can now find 3,778 jobs that I’m perfect for and send over my CV in a matter of seconds. But suddenly, ease-of-use has created a flood of applications that devalue each interaction; making job searching easier, but finding a job more difficult – the maze that was the traditional job search has tangled, Giordian-style.

Social media and the web enable breathless laziness. For all you jobseekers who curse the labyrinth that is the online recruitment process of a bigger firm – you’ve probably contributed to that maze if you’ve sent your resume over for a job you know you’re not going to get. At a guesstimate, about 60% of resumes we see at Bright Green Talent are plainly not a good fit for the role advertised. Yes 60%! When you add it up that’s a whole lot of time we could be helping our mothers clean their keyboards.

But, before you start writing your resumes by hand or abandon ship completely, social media IF used wisely, carefully and perhaps moderately is hugely powerful. Obama’s presidential campaign was perhaps the best example of someone securing a job through social media. Organizations like Kiva, Avaaz, Virgance and Change.org, to name but a few, are helping change the way we engage. I’m not a social media pessimist… just a grouch. The facilities are available to the wise and thoughtful; but I want people to start being more mindful when they interact online.

At Bright Green Talent, we’re continually surprised about how often people get the basics so very wrong. Here is a small collection of our recommendations for those using social media for professional purposes. Simple, perhaps obvious, but regularly overlooked:

  • Demonstrate judgment when requesting a link to someone or accepting someone’s request. Ask yourself – would I feel comfortable contacting this individual on behalf of another friend or introducing them to my mother?
  • Fix your privacy settings to keep the wrong people from being able to find you – mum’s especially – unless you’re as confident of their ineptness as I am.
  • Rely on high-quality interactions. Don’t let the impersonal nature of social interaction online affect your integrity – gracious people in person can become demons online. Try to interact with people as you would face-to-face.
  • Recruiters and employers are increasingly using social media to find people. Tweeting things like “omg SO hungover for interview this morning; hope they didn’t notice” is funniest for the interviewers, not your friends.
  • Social networking should accentuate getting to know, or doing business with someone – don’t overdo it, leave people wanting more rather than less!
  • “Meeting” people online DOES NOT EQUAL knowing them, see this nice little video from meetup for inspiration (ironically an online site promoting offline meetings).

If you’ve read this far, you probably want to use social media to benefit the environment, and there’s no point saving it if you don’t spend time in it. Use your online presence wisely. Ask yourself whether you’re creating meaning, deepening friendships and building value. As for me; as my thirtieth birthday rounds the corner and I’m forced to face the fact that I’m too old to still be under my mother’s influence and too young to retire, I will be indulging in more chatting and less tapping, and so should you.

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