By Dr. Michael L. Faulkner
Research clearly demonstrates the benefits of personal networking (known as the “informal” job hunting approach) as the most effective tool for job searching and career advancement. The value of social media to support personal networking is found in the productive collaboration of multiple communities, on a massive scale, simultaneously and productively leveraging the knowledge, experience, background, thought leadership, intuition, research, and ideas of many people on a variety of issues, problems, opportunities, and solutions.
Social media, in the job search context, is about communities of individuals who have come together, joined by a variety of digital communications channels, (e.g., Facebook, Penterest, You Tube, wireless devices, LinkedIn, Twitter, Digg, Meet-Up, Google Plus, personal blogs, etc.) bound by a shared interest or purpose. The benefits of the diversity of heterogeneous thinking — the wisdom of the crowd — adds to the value of a vast network expanding the value chain of individuals.
Social media is a fundamental change in the form of human communications. We can now instantly communicate with one person or millions of people in seconds through a variety of media using words, pictures, graphics, or code.
The social media train has supposedly left the station. Individuals may feel technologically backward if they haven’t kept up, if they don’t have hundreds of Facebook friends, or a twitter site, or several Google plus circles. This type of thinking is like the “ready, aim, shoot” mentality of the early days of Internet marketing and needs to be rejected.
Avoid repeating the Internet error — using the vast potential of the medium to over-sell and then underperform — by trying to overwhelm as many people as possible with technological cleverness and cuteness and then littering the digital space with SPAM, junk requests, over exposure, false information, and other harmful clutter.
Approach the job search as you would a full time job: write a personal business plan with seven components including a social media strategy:
- Mission statement
- Vision statement
- Background and situation analysis
- Strategic objectives and tactics including branding and positioning of myself
- Targeting potential opportunities which include industry and skill analysis and assessment
- Reassessing job skills to current and future needs
- Social media literacy
In considering a strategy for social media support of the job search, keep in mind the enormous amount of data demonstrating that employers are looking for good people who can adapt to change and meet the ever changing needs of business. Employers want skills and characteristics that generally can be transferred from different career paths.
In a 2011 study by the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) and the U.S. Department of Labor, Fortune 500 firms reported that they are looking for employees with the following skills (by order of importance): teamwork, problem-solving, interpersonal, oral communication, listening, creative thinking, leadership, writing, computation and reading.
The 2011 “Workforce Skills Reality Check” described over 1000 hiring managers’ preferences in job candidates:
- Communications skills
- Honesty & integrity
- Ability to work on diverse teams
- Computer literacy
- Related experience and knowledge
- Reliability, dependability and responsibility
- Positive attitude and approachable personality
- Ability to continue learning
- Good work ethic, punctual
Forty-one percent of the responding hiring managers indicated that they are looking to hire and 85 percent said they were likely to hire soon. However, 54 percent said it was difficult to find good candidates and 30 percent indicated that the process of finding good people is getting harder. One of the reasons it is getting harder is that the needs of employers continue to change.
The Institute for the Future recently identified eight new skills that are relevant and necessary in the 21st century. These skills are:
- Ability to see the deeper meaning or significance of what is being expressed.
- Novel and adaptive thinking or the proficiency at thinking and coming up with solutions and responses beyond that which is rule based or routine.
- Cross culture competence or the ability to operate in different cultural settings.
- Computational thinking or the ability to translate vast amounts of data into abstract concepts and to understand data-based reasoning.
- Transdisciplinarity or literacy in and the ability to understand concepts across multiple disciplines.
- Design mindset or the ability to represent and develop tasks and work processes for desired outcomes.
- Virtual collaboration or the ability to work productively, drive engagement and demonstrate presence as a member of a virtual team.
- New media literacy or the ability to critically assess and develop content that uses new media forms and to leverage these media for persuasive communications.
Job seekers need to be adroit at demonstrating their ability to translate their personal skills, abilities, characteristics, and background experiences into the skills that employers need now and in the future.
I conclude from my own research that formal job search methods (including digital postings, job fairs, posting resumes on employer web sites, recruiters, classified ads, cattle calls, mass resume mailings, cover letters and even what we teach in our educational system) are not working.
A job search is more likely to succeed if job candidates use the informal methods of personal networking and direct application to the hiring manager. This is not to say that other tools should not be used; they should be part of the job search repertory that is situational and conditional depending on each candidate and job search.
There are three components of social media relevant to your job search strategy:
- The technology
- The audience
- And most important for the job-seeker, the strategic purpose and the audience.
Don’t get too wrapped up in the individual pieces of the social media technology. They are only the bridge from your strategy to the audience, your goal or “who you want to reach.” Just because the technology can connect you with thousands or even millions of people doesn’t mean you need to or want to. Integrating social media into your job search requires that the strategy be carefully thought out. How do you want social media to support your job search?
Knowing what we do about the power of networking, the next step after deciding your strategy is integrating social media into your job search. Select social media technology tools that enhance your personal networking efforts.
Continue to build your network in person and then support and maintain it personally and with the use of social media. There are hundreds of technological options available to support your strategy. Do the research and use the third segment of the gestalt of social media, the audience, and determine with whom you want to communicate and what it is you want to communicate.
Use the criteria of knowing with whom you want to share information about your job search, your skills, abilities, characteristics, views, personality traits, interests. Don’t forget your work experience.
Part of being successful is knowing how to use your resources because they are limited. Combining personal networking with social media can super charge your job search efforts.
Dr. Michael Faulkner is Associate Professor, College of Business and Management and Keller Graduate School of Management, DeVry University. He holds a Ph.D. in Organizational Management Nonprofit Association Leadership from Union Institute and University, Cincinnati, OH. He is the author of a number of publications on networking. Follow his blog at http://twitter.com/#!/drmikebethewolf