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Social media – how important is it for job searching?

I recently became friends with a late adopter / conscientious abstainer – he checks his e-mail as many times a day as there are fingers on one of your hands; he’s not in Facebook or LinkedIn; and, most painful for me to deal with, he uses Yahoo Mail. You know, that one (alongside Hotmail) that injects advertising into the bottom of your e-mail. How crass, I bristled, upon receiving an e-mail from him. As if I hadn’t used a similar service 8 years ago, in those Web 1.0 days.

As a bit of a technologist-in-training, it’s been entertaining, frustrating, and frequently engaging to talk to him. The robustness of every suggestion I have – about the value of things like:

  1. joining LinkedIn
  2. investing in his personal social capital through networking (all of which he also lacks because he just moved to Vancouver) either online or off;
  3. participating in the reputation economy

…is being jumped up and down upon by his formidable skepticism. But the reason it’s so difficult is that we are attempting to reconcile a much bigger dilemma. This cuts to the question of what value social media brings to those who are clued in, and what obstacles lie for those who might want that without giving up their time and effort (or, for that matter, mobile phone budgets) to Twitter-enabled iPhones or blog maintenance.

His isn’t the same sort of skepticism that I’m able to brush off easily, like that of my parents – this friend is that rare specimen in my circle, someone younger than me – the spectrum of technology adoption preference transcends age or generational affiliation. For him, disconnection is a deliberate act of defiance: a manifestation of his belief that being outside matters more than chasing bits across the screen, and that connecting happens best face to face.

Certainly not something I’ll disagree entirely with. But I think there is a line that he’s crossed, and he’s taken his minimizing computer time to a bit of an extreme. Social media, in particular, is still about connecting with people on ideas, shared values, experiences, and finding support and occasional wisdom from others in pursuit of common goals. Being younger, my friend isn’t quite able to align what he wants today (a job) with his broader life goals (which are fairly well-articulated, certainly no better or worse than my own) with how he would participate in social media, if he took the time to. He also has no conception of whether his participation would even have any remote bearing on his being hired in the positions he’s seeking due to the nature of the work.

I don’t believe that social media has been absolutely revolutionary for every human resources department on the planet. It’s not like job postings, resumés, and interviews are all of a sudden happening with entirely new goals, purposes and aims. But the context – personal history, motivations, side projects, interests, team experience, attitude, what you bring to a culture and a work environment – seem to matter increasingly more (if not equally as much, for some positions) as the work experience, education, awards and certifications on the resumé.

I’m also sensing a bit of a knowledge and industrial economy divide. Not everyone can be in a position to make money from their ideas, their writing or their analytical abilities, or have the training to have that valued at a decent market rate. It’s something I’m observing with people my own age too.

Either way, I’m continuing to scramble for the light at the end of this unresolved argument.


  1. I find that many people seem to look at me all weirded out when they learn that I am in just about every other Web 2.0 application with the exception of Facebook. I know, bad Raul :)

    At any rate, I fully support yoru views, hopefully your friend will see the light at the end of the tunnel!

    Posted December 30, 2008 at 11:50 am | Permalink
  2. Raul,

    You’re certainly not the only Facebook abstainer I know. I think a lot of it has to do with where you work and what differentiates you. From what I’ve gathered of academia, it has its own systems and rules of how everyone knows what each other’s doing, and how various acts of being social contribute to your credibility. It has lots of similarities with the more general job market but seems to have its own rulebook too, which may perform a lot of the functions that Facebook does for everyone else.

    As for my friend, he’s still hunting, but getting closer every day hopefully, skepticism fully intact.

    Posted January 1, 2009 at 5:20 pm | Permalink
  3. karen:

    you may have seen this already, but i found this recent blog post [on jobsearch 2.0 via social media] fairly informative+helpful.


    Posted January 20, 2009 at 6:04 am | Permalink
  4. Miraj,

    Thanks for the link! It had flown by my radar but having pointed it out in this context , I’m going to give it a second look.


    Posted January 22, 2009 at 12:58 pm | Permalink
  5. Hey Karen – i'm currently consulting for a national “human capital” company on building a large career management website with social networking capabilities – i.e. networking and how your CONTEXT (as you put it) matters more than resumes and job banks. Your comments are right on target for what I've been preaching, and I think the results could be pretty cool. But it's not launched yet, so stay tuned.

    Posted January 28, 2009 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

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  1. […] couple weeks ago, I wrote a bit about the experience of a friend of mine, who’s a job-seeker that isn’t even willing to […]

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