Isn’t All Networking Social?

One of the hottest topics in the career practitioner field these days is the issue of social networking. Given the meteoric rise in popularity of sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, I suppose this should come as no surprise.

Without a doubt, social media have changed the way that job seekers and employers hook up. And while they may seem like a fad right now, it’s unlikely that this way of connecting with others is going to lose popularity anytime soon. In fact, the more likely scenario is a steady increase in their use, and the implementation of newer, more innovative ways of connecting as technology continues to advance.

But today, with all of the above acknowledged, I want to take a stance on something.

That something, simply put, is people. One of the easiest things to forget, in the midst of all those LOLs, OMGs, RTs, hashtags, live chats, wall posts and the rest, is that you’re actually communicating with people. Under the veil of anonymity, in the seemingly consequence-free environment that the internet so conveniently provides, it’s almost like we’ve collectively lost our fundamental ability to communicate with civility, professionalism and respect.

All networking is social, is it not? The word network implies that two or more entities must have some kind of connection or interaction, and when talking about people, that means it’s a social interaction. This semantic pet peeve underscores my larger point, which is that just because something makes communication faster, easier and more accessible, doesn’t mean we should throw out some basic rules of etiquette.

There are plenty of extreme cases that demonstrate this, but I think my post today would be better spent on three more subtle examples of poor online communication that you should definitely avoid in your use of social media to aid your job search.

1. Ambiguity. When’s the last time you read a totally ambiguous status update on Facebook? You know, the kind that makes absolutely no sense and forces others to ask what the person is even talking about? “Only time will tell…” or “Seriously!?” or the perennial favourite, “Worst day EVER!” are good examples of this. When writing a status update, it might be helpful to imagine that you’re standing at a podium in a large lecture hall, and all your friends, followers, connections, etc. are there in the room, in real life, listening to you speak.

2. Too much information (TMI). I don’t mean being too wordy, as it’s usually the opposite problem with social media. What I do mean is broadcasting information that is overly personal to an entire network of people who probably don’t want to know about your latest argument with your significant other, the weird blister you got over the weekend, or your niece’s toilet training difficulties. Something about being a new parent seems to make TMI particularly pervasive. Again, imagine the podium and the lecture hall.

3. Cold and impersonal. This mainly applies to connecting with new contacts. For example, I don’t know about you, but when I receive an invitation to connect via LinkedIn from someone that I haven’t met personally/online in some way, and they don’t even go to the simple length of changing the standard message of “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn,” I am immediately inclined to ignore the message and its sender. This type of invitation is typical of people who don’t care who they connect with and will never follow up personally with you—they just want to increase the number of connections in their network. Imagine someone walking up to you, asking to exchange contact information, then walking away and never talking to you again. Pretty creepy, right?

So, am I saying that if we were all a bit more specific/direct, mindful of our audience, and personable in our communication over social networks, we would be more likely to make a positive impression that could help us get jobs?

Why yes, yes I am. Glad you asked.

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