Social networking and the hunt for a new job

With 533,000 jobs lost in November alone– the largest monthly decline since the 70s, it comes as no surprise that more and more articles are popping up about how to network, find a better career, or prove your value. 

The Wall Street Journal has begun following “eight out-of-work M.B.A.s as they search for jobs in a post-meltdown world,” in an effort to empathize with the downward marketplace, and to provide a positive resource for some of the many Americans who are professionally displaced. 

None of this comes as a big surprise: as the economy changes, the media reacts, so many of the articles have been somewhat lackluster. Most recommend brushing up on new technology so that those who were laid off remain desirable and competitive; others suggest reducing your financial overhead and planning for a layoff, even if you haven’t already been laid off. And nearly every article I’ve come across in the past few months has also recommended networking with your peers. 

For those of us in the social media space, this seems incredibly natural, and almost pointless to mention. Personally, as soon as Yahoo! announced the layoffs, I started checking out the marketplace– seeing what types of jobs were available, and made sure my resume was up to date. Then, when December 10th came around, I was ready to go. 

But a quote in an article in MSNBC caught me by surprise today that seems to somewhat discredit the validity of finding a job on social networking sites. Eve Tahmincioglu, the article’s author, interviewed  Michael Stefano, assistant professor of communications at University of Buffalo for insight on social networking sites and the job hunt. 

Stefano recently conducted an experiment where he had 50 college students select 12 of their Facebook friends and ask them to help with a school project by taking a 10-minute survey. Of the 600 total asked, only one out of seven responded on average, he says. The majority did not even click on the URL to look at the survey.

Helping someone find a job will take a lot more time and energy than that, Stefano points out. While he admits there are anecdotal stories about people finding jobs via these sites, he’s “doubtful” they are statistically significant.

The article goes on to say, “there are no hard numbers that show networking portals are any more effective than picking up a phone and asking friends if they know of any work. And these sites are not far-reaching, having long been focused on professional office dwellers, not blue-collar or service-sector workers.” Granted this may be true (I couldn’t find a relevant ComScore study or Nielsen study that would say otherwise, or even tested the idea in a scientific manner) but Stefano and Tahmincioglu are completely missing the point in these initial quotes: Facebook and LinkedIn are only as reliable of a resource as the people you “friend” or “connect with” on the sites.

Layoff tips

Tips from MSNBC

Stefano argues that he had 50 students ask their Facebook friends to complete a survey and the results were dismal. Perhaps the surveyor should look at their friends, instead of the resource and compare that information. Stefano’s data is completely irrelevant unless he had a control in the study: his students should have asked the same set of 50 friends to fill out the same exact survey through a different medium– either in person, phone, IM, or email, to truly test whether or not it’s the resource or the contact that’s unreliable. 

In addition to this, to continue on saying “finding a job will take a lot more time an energy than that”– well, that doesn’t take a genius to figure out. The likelihood of someone seeing your plea for employment, knowing of a perfect opportunity, referring you, and you being hired is probably slim to none. But, the potential for one of your contacts to see your plea for employment and think of you and refer you to a friend is greatly increased by the exposure that you wouldn’t have gotten had you not posted your new unemployed status on Facebook or LinkedIn.

Tahmincioglu provides an example of this later in the article, and also suggests users create a “Web presence” by creating a social networking page and differentiating yourself by using your middle initial if there are duplicates of your name online. What Tahmincioglu fails to warn novices is that if you’re attempting to look like you “get” Web 2.0– be sure you actually do.

Make sure your online presence accurately reflects who you are in person as well. There’s nothing worse than interviewing a candidate that you Googled prior to the interview and sitting there knowing that she has a photo of herself and Ron Jeremy as her default image on Facebook (trust me, I’ve interviewed many candidates who satisfy this criteria) but sit in the interview and present themselves as incredibly professional and non de-script in person. Online and realistic parity is the best way to find success– both on and offline. 

Whatever you decide to do– whether it’s create a social networking page to make yourself more googleable, or, update your LinkedIn page to keep your professional skills up to date, be sure to reach out to the people you know first. You’d be surprised by how many referrals/connections you’ll end up with, and you’ll have the added bonus of getting past the “black box” of mindless online resume submissions by actually knowing someone at the company. Either way, good luck, and happy hunting!  

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7 comments so far

  1. Stephanie on

    Hi, thanks for your comment. Look like we’ve got similar ideas about job searches. Sorry that you lost your job. It’s never a good feeling. But I’m looking forward to reading more!

  2. Melissa on

    No worries– I figure it just means something better will come along! 🙂

  3. Su on

    I also lost my job on December 10, along with 30 other former employees at my former ERP company. Of course, I immediately started looking for a new position, and I have used LinkedIn to get some introductions to people who work for companies in my area that could be a good fit for my background.

    At the same time, friends and former colleagues (folks who had left the company a year before I did) contacted me within 24 hours to offer help with references, to tell me about positions available in their companies, and to request my resume so they could take it to hiring managers in their firms.

    I think the comment re: “look at your friends” is correct; I wouldn’t expect a lot of college students, who may be casual friends on FB at best, to be willing to give up 5-10 minutes to fill out a survey that seems irrelevant to their busy lives. If you do have real friends and also real colleagues and connections via Facebook, LinkedIn, or some other social networking site, then I think you might find that you will have a little more help than if you’re a college kid with a homework project.

  4. Michael on

    Your post has great insight, very original, well done!

  5. Melissa on

    Thanks for commenting! 🙂

  6. […] 13, 2009 · No Comments A month after my layoff from Yahoo!, and I’m still looking for a job. (Have a lead? Email me ) However, after taking […]


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