This is the second in a series of four posts regarding managing your career with the help of technology. I've chosen the title words very carefully as I wanted to talk about the life-long process of career management not to be confused with the job search process. Oh for sure, the job search process is a part of this but the management of your career should not start and stop with each job search you go through. I am eager to learn what has worked well for you. Please leave your comments and suggestions.
We've all learned that the 3 major keys to successful career management are networking, networking and networking. The good news is that technology can help in this. Technology can't replace personal face-to-face networking on a big scale but it can supplement it.
If you ask an arborist when the best time to plant a tree the stock answer is "10 years ago". Okay, so what's the second best time? - "Today". The same holds true for networking which is why it is so important to think of it as part of your on-going career management rather than the short period of a particular job search. And just like a tree growing your network takes time and you have to cultivate it and nurture it for it to prosper. I'll discuss in this and future posts how technology can help in this.
The first and most obvious technologies are the networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook. These are designed for the purpose of making network connections. They allow you to keep track of our friends and associates and they also provide a way to connect with their friends and associates.
As in real life you can abuse these connections so you need to follow the courtesies and norms of each site. However, unlike real life you can review the profiles of your connections to see who their connections are which allows you to ask for introductions. This can be a great help when you are trying to get an introduction to a particular person.
There are many similarities between LinkedIn and Facebook and one major difference. The biggest difference between the two is their target audience. LinkedIn tends to be more business oriented with your contacts (LinkedIn's term) being primarily your business associates. In contrast, Facebook tends to be more personal and where you have friends (Facebook's term). This distinction is not a hard-and-fast rule and the line between business and personal relationships in these tools can be easily and legitimately blurred.
Other popular technologies in this same category are Myspace and Friendfeed although they tend to be not quite as strong in the emphasis on networking. Beyond this there are many other social media technologies out there that can be used in your networking efforts, such as, Naymz and Plaxo. Beyond this there are a myriad of applications available with more coming every day.
Two other technologies especially useful in networking are Twitter and blogging. These are different than LinkedIn and Facebook in that they are open conversations in which you hope to engage people you may not already know. The best description I've seen is “Facebook is about people you used to know; Twitter is about people you’d like to know better.” Although I prefer the straightforward simplicity of this statement it can be expanded to say 'Facebook and LinkedIn are about people you used to know; Twitter and blogging are about people you’d like to know better.'
Although Twitter and blogging are about having conversations they are both different. Twitter is a series of short (140 character) conversations that you can jump in and out of. Blogging conversations are more in-depth and focused on a specific topic. Twitter is like the conversations at a cocktail party, blogging is like the chance conversation you'd have with a stranger in a bookstore about a particular book. Both types of conversations are good but they are different.
Just because these conversations are not face-to-face doesn't mean they can't lead to meaningful network relationships. Through my blogging and twittering (mainly blogging since I'm relatively new to Twitter) I've gotten to know a number of people that I've never actually met that I would consider friends and part of my network. A number of times I've been helped or have helped these virtual network contacts.
You can also use blogging in your networking effort without actually writing any blogs. If you leave interesting and useful comments, that is, join in on the conversation you can also grow your network as people get to know you through your comments.
LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, blogging -- so many choices. Which should you use? The answer is simple; none of them or all of them or any combination. They all require a certain amount of effort and time to use them properly. Take a look, try them out see which ones work best for your particular situation. But whatever you do don't think these are a substitute for your real life networking efforts. These technologies will enhance your real life networking, they won't replace it.
Please leave a comment - I'd love to hear how you feel about this and how you've found technology helpful in managing your career.
Prior and upcoming posts in this series:
- Career Management With The Help of Technology: Who Are You?
- Career Management With The Help of Technology: Branding & Marketing (February 11, 2009)
- Career Management With The Help of Technology: Nurturing Your Network (February 25, 2009)
"Perfect tree" photo by Daveybot
If this topic was of interest, you might also like these: