First a stray thought about “new tools” and “old rules;” as a fan of the NBC-TV show “Heroes,” I can’t help but notice the character Ando. His new power, accelerating the superpowers of any “special” he touches, is a bit like social media, taking existing things and making them work faster and more powerfully. Yes? No? OK, nerdy digression aside, on to the main point.
The recession and the horrible economy are on our minds, and at the top of the worry-list for many of us are jobs. I’m not going to write the “how to job-hunt in a recession” article*, because frankly I am no expert, and being currently employed, I am risking the resentment of the growing ranks of job-seekers anyway. But I would like to comment on how social media has affected our careers, and how these new tools enhance the old rules, rather than create new ones.
Old Rule #1: Networking is King
Whether or not I had a job at the time, whether or not I was actively looking, I got every job I had through networking. I got my first job because I was sitting in my college adviser’s office when the call came in (ok, perhaps timing plays into things as well). I never thought I was an outgoing networker, but looking back, I realized I had very quietly built a network of colleagues and friends.
Social networking has accelerated that networking. More importantly, it has made it easier to, as Jeremiah Owyang wrote way back in June, “Build Your Network Before You Need Them.”
Old Rule #2: The Resume
One “old” comment: the traditional resume is not going anywhere anytime soon. Most HR departments adapt more slowly than social media early adopters–but the purpose of a resume remains the same no matter the format (see, for example, a slightly more dynamic social media resume, inspired by similar efforts by Christopher Penn and Bryan Person; it is a document of your work history. The new tools allow for video, audio and graphic evidence and more creative presentation, but the old-fashioned paper resume is still required most places (one notable exception is a “Hiring 2.0″ example from my friends at Mzinga).
Old Rule #3: Extracurricular Activities
One nice part of the dynamic social media resume is that it makes it easy to include activities outside of work that may make one more attractive to employers. But again, nothing really new here: in my insulated world, the main rule was to make sure I put “Eagle Scout” on my resume, which of course I did. Always a conversation starter. What do the new tools of social media mean in this context? Anything you do can be put on the Web, and anything you put on the Web, a potential employer can view. Rather than frame that in the old “Facebook drinking photo” scare tactics, how about this: now it’s easier to show off and prove that you do charity bike rides, compete in triathlons, or are an accomplished harmonica player. Serve on the board of a non-profit? It’s on the Web. Win a pie-eating contest at the Hopkinton Fair in New Hampshire? Properly tagged Flickr photos will lead us there. Companies hire humans; that was always the case. Now it’s just easier to prove how human you are (in a good way).
We all get caught in the jobs crunch at one time or another; if not now, then next time, or the last time around. I have been amazed at how social media has evolved the job search process–on both sides–but equally note the old values and methods that these new tools are enhancing.
Doug Haslam is an Account Director at Boston’s SHIFT Communications, and blogs at DougHaslam.com.