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(Online) Social Networking is Not the Answer

Occasionally I’ve read advice and articles from supposed experts suggesting, in order to find more job opportunities, to engage in or increase your social networking activities. This is some of the dumbest and least effective advice I’ve heard. Somebody actually wrote that thinking they are offering up a solution. No doubt, with the job market as flat and competitive as it is, folks are craving any bit of help they can find. But really, is there anyone who is not living in a cave who isn’t already doing some form of social networking? So yet another website, portal or domain might find a hidden golden nugget of a job listing? How is a social networking site such as LinkedIn going to get you a job? Using this logic, I suppose if I send a friend request to an unknown senior manager working for XYZ Company, they’ll read my message or resume, think I am swell and voila, they’ll hire me, eh. In what alternate universe does this happen? Gee, I had no idea it could be this simple. According to those who actually think they are making a useful contribution with this kind of empty–headed advice, they are suggesting that more time spent digging around online will make your job hunting efforts more fruitful.
Social networking can and does work but it has nothing to do with being on someone’s friends list or being online. You have to invest more than some keystrokes to be effective, especially if you want better results than the countless others who are also online doing the same thing and competing for the same jobs. Perhaps the problem here to which I am referring is the new definition of what social networking is and what it isn’t. Let’s step back for a moment. What most people think of as social networking – isn’t. Sitting alone and interacting electronically is not a social activity – hey, you’re sitting alone and looking at a lighted screen for God’s sake! Please don’t confuse trading messages with someone over a technical medium with real social activity.
No matter what mind–numbing garbage someone might suggest about what you can accomplish online, real social networking was – and is, face–to–face, person–to–person. It is being physically in the presence of others; meeting, building relationships. It involves observation and adaptation in an environment where you are physically participating, in real time. It is the spontaneous action and reaction to words and events; it is the art of communication developing both verbal and body language; it is nuances, personality, tone of voice. This, ladies and gentlemen, is real social networking and it takes real effort. Digital / technical social networking is no substitute. Emails and text messaging are one dimensional, becoming a crutch for the shy and fearful and a handicap for the able. You can’t learn to swim watching videos or talking about it. Whether you enter slowly or jump right in, you’ve got to get into the water. Indeed, exploit technology to research and plan and then get out there and meet people, make appointments, shake hands, attend alumni, professional or trade association gatherings. This is what social networking was, is and will be.

The more you are in the physical presence and actively participating with others, the better your chances are to find work. Anything else is just idle activity, like watching a dog chase its tail; lots of activity but not getting anywhere. Conducting correspondence with key strokes in your pajamas is not social activity. Indeed it might be interactive but it is not action oriented. Obviously there is quite a difference between what is virtual and what is real but, for some, the clear lines of separation begin to blur.

So don’t rely so much on technology and, instead, rely on yourself. Get out there, go ahead, feel a little nervous, break a sweat, and so on – you’ll get used to it and be better and develop more confidence as a result. What’s the worst that can happen? Someone might tell you “no”, or you might experience some rejection. Welcome to real life. The payoff is worthwhile and later, after you succeed, you can post the news about your new job and share it on Facebook, LinkedIn or wherever you virtually meet online.