Networking-Schmetworking......

There are those people who feel that the solution to every situation is a social network....This is not always defined by living human beings in proximity to you, people with whom you actually speak and see occasionally. Nope, the network is defined as how many people click the "like" button or the "friend" button on their computer. People spend huge amounts of time and energy online, clicking on buttons, adding profiles to the "friend/colleague" lists. It is almost like Easter Egg hunts. when we were kids, and everyone was scrambling around, literally stepping on one another, bashing the slower kids with the baskets, in order to have the greatest number of eggs at the end of the gauntlet. Strangely enough, just like the Easter Egg hunt, kids didn't always like the eggs that they were collecting, but the goal was still the same-have more eggs than anyone else. I am beginning to view the whole social media thing in the same way. It appears to be about quantity, not the quality of the relationship in question. The implicit goal is to have more in your "friends" queue than anyone else. And there is a certain element of the big game hunter in all this too, as folks are striving to have as many "prestigious" contacts as possible. And, according to all the "help" columns, and the employment analysts, I am hurting my employment chances by not becoming the Bwannah Don of the Facebook and Twitter worlds, carefully scouring the social jungle for the appropriate trophies to hang upon my Facebook wall.
I have a question in all of this. I want to know what happened to those caveats about being cautious regarding what you posted on social media. What happened to the horror stories about the up-and-coming, young executive who lost the plum opportunity due to the unfortunate video chronicle of his antics at the last company picnic? Obviously, wearing you girlfriends bikini and dancing the Hora on a picnic table is not considered Mahogany Row behavior. It wasn't so long ago that we were all admonished and encouraged to "clean up our online act" lest it come full circle to kick us firmly where it hurts most. I also recall cautions against appearing frivolous, and even against being specifically political, or religious, when presenting ourselves on social websites-as that could potentially bias an employer against you. So if we aren't to portray ourselves as we really are, then of what substance are the contacts that we gather in this form? I mean, if I can't acknowledge my political, religious, social views, and I can't present my moral convictions (or lack thereof), then are my friends really "liking" me? Or have we just created a web of alternate personas which are based up our best guess as to what everyone else wants to hear? I don't really want my career search and job decisions based upon the same criteria as the prom king and queen in high school. I was kind of hoping that we had all grown up and moved beyond that point, but perhaps the desire to be popular and viewed well by others, even total strangers, is a more basic need than anyone ever imagined. (Perhaps I should consider trying to formulate a Doctoral dissertation examining this very issue, as it would be something constructive to do with my time and social media.)
Back to the relative value of social networking and the job hunt.....if, based upon my premise, most of our social media friends are of the extremely casual nature (in that we wouldn't necessarily even spend the postage to send a Christmas or Birthday greeting, but rather instant message them), why should these contacts exert themselves at all on our behalf for something as important and essential as paid employment? If the people, who have been neighbors for years, if the people, whom I have volunteered with at church for years, if my own blood kin, whom I have known since birth are not going to exert themselves on my behalf, why should I expect it from people who have even less direct a connection to me? While I understand that there is a climate of fear, and nobody feels totally secure in their employment, it has been my experience, since losing my job, that to ask directly if another person's company might be hiring is usually an immediate end to the conversation. Suddenly, previous commitments are remembered, other people requiring immediate attention are spotted, or at the very least, conversational topics are immediately steered into other categories, away from the work world. A few creative souls have come up with a litany of grievances regarding their cruel and unusual employment. I am supposed to be completely discouraged from asking them any questions regarding potential job opportunity by the dire conditions that they have portrayed. If things are so miserable.....why do you stay????? And while I cannot speak for anyone other than myself, I can be pretty darn annoyed, frustrated, and aggravated if somebody is willing to actually pay me a reasonable wage. I mean, seriously, when was the last time anyone was caught whistling at work???? The seven dwarfs?
I have spent some time reading assorted articles sponsored by sites like Career Builder, Monster, Snag a Job, and a host of others. Just like self help books, I am to believe that these are the magic answers to my problems. Strangely enough, if you actually respond to a thread, and your situation differs from the author's example, you get soundly spanked by the moderator (usually the author) for not adhering strictly to the topic. In other words, do not challenge the voice of authority, nor point out where the argument falls apart. The fact that one size does not fit all is your own darn fault, not faulty advice. Silly of you to think that the article was written to help you succeed. Why if we all succeeded, there would be no need for Monster, Career Builder, or the assorted chat rooms that go along with them. So, now I have even further reason for skepticism about the advice given, as sound advice would eliminate the need for them educating us at all.
I have also noticed that these articles are vague in the extreme. Many of them remind me of junior high school English essays, a collection of topic sentences that don't elaborate on anything beyond statement of the obvious. But yet, I am supposed to accept, based upon the 'credentials" of the author as career advisors, employment counselors, HR professionals, (and I really question what those titles actually mean-is there a standard of performance that makes one expert?), that following this non-advice is going to somehow transform that FOAD letter into a job offer. What I am seeing consists of a good amount of generalization, supposition, and just plain "guessing". How can these people possibly know why, or why not, anybody receives an offer of employment. The variables are limitless. And the actual agenda of the employer is buried under layers which are designed to protect against potential suit for discrimination. Even job postings are so vague and elastic to allow for the maximum wiggle room in selection.
But just for the sake of argument....say I spend a huge amount of time online, trying to connect with people from my distant past, folks who have had no reason to remain in contact with me over the past couple of decades...what is the motivation for any of these network contacts to give me the proverbial "leg up"? My situation has no bearing on the photos of their family trip to Disney World, and I am not in the position to further their "Save the Aardvark" campaign by my generous financial contributions. I have never met their kids, so I cannot wax philosophically about their offsprings' accomplishments. I am unable to "remember when" the newly minted college graduate was covered in the remains of their first PB & J, and make the appropriate appreciative noises about how well they have cleaned up with age and maturity. And quite frankly, while I was working, my time table was adequately filled to the brim with details regarding work, household, spouse, raising kids, participating in the community, trying to remain current on world events and national issues instead of seeking voices from the past. As a well rounded person, I did not confine my social contacts to people who were exactly like me as that would be boring in the extreme. How can I expect people, who work in other occupations far removed from my area of expertise, to be able to offer information that will result in my getting a job interview? Are we only to choose associates who are exactly like us? Are social contacts only for the purpose of advancing our careers and salaries? I can't help but feel that this is being opportunistic in the worst possible way, viewing everything in our lives in terms of potential financial gains. Once again, it cheapens the quality of a relationship.
I have the Facebook page. I have no idea what to actually do with it. I know what I dislike about many that I have seen. I don't necessarily want to see photos of what somebody is having for dinner. There are only so many landscape and sunset photos that anyone can view without being bored to tears. I also don't want to have to click on two dozen different links to find out what is actually going on in a person's life, a person with whom I feel a bond, a common interest. I thought that the whole social network thing was supposed to make it easier to keep up with things, and yet I find myself spending a great deal more time in social media than I ever did in actual conversation, and due to the brevity of instant messaging and twitter, I know even less than I did following conversation. And quite frankly, I have a ton of other things to do. Even though I am not gainfully employed, there are still meals to prepare, clothing to wash, vacuuming to be done, kids to get off to school....the list of daily reality goes on and on. Before I sacrifice more time and effort, I want to know that it actually will yield some tangible result that will justify the time that I take away from other necessary activities. Instead of vague statements that successful job hunters are better at social netowrking, give me some specifics. Exactly what did they do on Facebook, Twitter, LinkdIn, and the like that made them more viable and desirable to a potential employer. Otherwise, I tend to believe that job hunting, and receiving a job offer is much like playing the slots at a casino....Some can sit in the chair for months without a payoff, and the next person to occupy that chair and pull the lever, hits the jackpot.

Filed under: The Job Search

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