Social Networking

While people under 35 seem to be taking the world’s transformation to social networking in stride, I am finding a trend of indifference or even resentment toward social networking among my fellow Baby Boomer Generation business leaders.

These are the kind of comments I’ve heard:

“Oh this is just a passing fad – remember all those Internet startups in the 90s?”

“Facebook, that’s just for kids and people who have too much time.”

“All social networking is about is letting people know where you ate dinner last night and what you thought of the restaurant.”

Developing an Active Connection

For many of these leaders, there are more than enough things to worry about in their day to-day work life and building out a social network just doesn’t seem like a priority. And indeed it may not be a priority- until you consider a job transition:

  • The average tenure for a mid- to senior-level position now is under four years.
  • The rate of mergers, acquisitions, and reorganizations is picking up pace with the economy.
  • The job market is “thawing out,” with some remarkable opportunities for talented leaders who may have been “hunkered down” in a job or company they don’t like.

With these trends in mind, maintain a healthy appreciation for strategies to build your career opportunities. Building a social network is not the same as “being in the job market.” It is not about being disloyal or unappreciative of your current employer.

It simply means you are developing an active connection to your professional network. You are always looking for opportunities for a competitive advantage for your business, why would you not do the same for your career?

Job Sourcing Has Changed: Forever

The reason why social networking is so crucial to your career is that the job sourcing model that drives employment has fundamentally changed and continues to change at a remarkable rate.

  • The number of jobs sourced and filled through job boards and direct applications has declined steadily for the last five years is now under 20%.
  • The number of jobs sourced through networking has increased steadily and now accounts for over 80% of job placements.
  • Between 60-80% of positions filled are never listed! The only way you would ever know about these “hidden” jobs is through networking.
  • There is a recruiting technology “gold rush” driving job sourcing that is increasingly focused on data mining of social networking sites to identify qualified candidates.

All indications are that these trends will continue. The probability of you finding your next job opportunity may depend on social networking.

The traditional resume and cover letter are becoming things of the past, being replaced daily by e-mails, networking calls, and scans of Linked-in profiles.

Your Job Search and the Time Value of Money

A fundamental principle of economics is “the time value of money.” This simply means that the sooner a business transaction produces profit, the better. This fundamental principle drives all strategic planning and investments in business.

It should be a core driver of your career strategy as well.  It takes time and effort to build an effective, high-quality social network. If you begin this process the day you lose your job or decide to start looking, you have significantly delayed your potential return on the time value of money.

Related:  #5 Barrier to Leadership – Not Believing

Building a social network is parallel to getting in shape. It takes 3 to 6 months of consistent effort including 1 to 3 hours of work each week to build a vibrant and growing social network.

Building an online profile and presence is not like writing your resume. It is not something that you do once and leave alone.  Just as with an exercise routine, you must maintain, update, and grow your profile if it is to have any impact or add value.

Let’s break the potential financial impact of proactively building your social network down to real dollars. If you make $150,000 per year with the 30% benefits package and a 10% bonus structure, you are bringing in a total compensation of approximately $17,500 per month.

If you begin the process of social networking the day you need to replace that income, it could easily take you an additional 30-60 days to get up to speed.  That is a significant cost. It is a far better investment to spend a little time each week building career insurance.

Getting Started Is Easy

Some business leaders are skeptical or uneasy about starting a social networking regimen. In most of these cases, it is because these individuals have not tried it and stuck with the process long enough to see the value. Those who are committed to the process see results and appreciate the investment.

LinkedIn is a great place to start and continues to pull away as the primary web connection for business networking and corporate recruiting.

Building out a LinkedIn profile and growing your network requires no more initial effort than updating your resume.  In fact, it is better to work on your professional social network over time as your updates attract interest and attention.

Three Suggestions for getting Started

  • If you are new to LinkedIn, the service is remarkably easy (and free) as the online instructions leads you through each phase of the profile-building process. Simply navigate to LinkedIn.com and follow the “create account” link.
  • There are many ways to approach profile-building. The best way to get started is to look at 15 to 20 profiles of individuals of your management level in related industries. Keep track of what stands out to you and fits with your professional style. Borrow shamelessly.
  • Build your connections wisely. You may be tempted to get as many connections as possible. Remember that quality is always better than quantity.

So, if you have been reluctant to jump on the social networking bandwagon, deal with it. Your livelihood may depend on it.

Kirk’s book, The Million-Dollar Race: An Insider’s Guide to Winning the Job of Your Dreams, is available on Amazon.com.

How Are You Building Your Social Network?

If you have ideas you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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Dr. Kirk Hallowell
Kirk is the author of, The Million-Dollar Race: An Insider’s Guide to Winning the Job of Your Dreams, to be published by Greenleaf Book Group the end of 2012. Kirk is President of MatchPoint Learning & Development.
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