LinkedIn and Other Social Media an Essential Tool for Job Seekers

Employees and job searchers must adapt to the ways in which social media combine their business and private lives.

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Lisa Chau is the assistant director of Public Relations at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.

As companies have slowly, and many times reluctantly, embraced social media in recent years, it seems inevitable that the boundaries between our virtual and physical worlds will shrink to the point where the lines may almost disappear. Social media has extended its influence beyond sharing personal details and grown into a professional communication, networking, and branding tool. Business teams on opposite sides of the world have collaborated on massive projects without having ever met in person.

Given the dismal state of the current economy, more and more people are investing their time in learning and leveraging social media. As increasing numbers of corporations adopt systems like Yammer and Chatter to manage internal communications, fluency in social media will be necessary for most workers to add to their skill set. Staying competitive in the marketplace for job and education will necessitate familiarity with these programs.

Yammer reports on their website that over 80 percent of the Fortune 500 companies are using their product. In three years, Yammer has exceeded 4 million users to become one of the fastest growing enterprise software companies in history. Every incoming student at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College is registered with a Chatter account. Salesforce, which owns Chatter, tops the Forbes list of Most Innovative Companies. This summer, I will be teaching a course at MIT entitled Intro to Social Media and Professional Networking.  

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In the 2012 Social Business Global Executive Study and Research Project published by MIT Sloan Management Review with Deloittte Social Business: What are Companies Really Doing?, author of New York Times bestseller Open Leadership and research-based advisory firm Altimeter Group founder Charlene Li states, "Over the past few years there's been an awakening: people have moved on from asking 'what is social business?' to 'what do I do about it now? How do I integrate this into my business?' The line between real business and social business is diminishing."

The inevitable convergence of these two realms in business, real and social, signals a watershed moment. 

Relationships drive business, and social simply offers a way to extend and leverage one's relationships in ways that scale, that transcend time and geography, and will endure one beyond the tenure of one's current employer.

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This growing trend in the corporate world further extends its influence into people's private lives in a manner which had previously been a concern mainly for politicians. Now, anything that happens in public, and sometimes even in private, is available for use in character judgment. Corporate and college recruiters have been known to search through virtual data about candidates. Job seekers and students have lost opportunities because of what they chose to post on Facebook, Twitter, and other websites. Some have even been passed over because of information publicized by others without their consent or worse, false information attached to their names online.

Because the Internet operates continuously, personal brand management must also be continuous. Like politicians, we must now guard our privacy more than ever before. Every detail of our lives is vulnerable to scrutiny. 

However, hiding offline will disappear as an option if one wants to stay a competitive participant in social and professional networks. 

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In a rather extreme example, Dorie Clark warns in It's Not a Job Search, It's a Permanent Campaign, published by Harvard Business Review:

If you're invisible, you're probably a fraud. Resumes and even clever cover letters will become increasingly meaningless when employers are looking not for words, but for demonstrated knowledge and results. If you've got a strong online personal brand, you're in. And if you don't? One firm I consulted for almost didn't hire a a [sic] qualified senior executive because—lacking almost any online presence—they strongly suspected he had fabricated his background. He hadn't, but the elaborate process of verifying his story nearly cost him the job.

In Forbes, Josh Bersin reports in LinkedIn's Growth Continues: Fueling the Corporate Talent Machine that LinkedIn's "hiring solutions" business accounts for $102.6 million or 54 percent of company revenue, which were up 101 percent this quarter. In the corporate recruiting market, LinkedIn's revenues overshadow those of its rivals: SuccessFactors, which SAP just acquired for $3.4 billion; Taleo, which Oracle just acquired for $1.9 Billion; and Kenexa.

LinkedIn has become the new standard in corporate recruiting, and in this economy it's a buyer's market. Social media usage will continue to integrate itself into personal and professional lives. Rather than avoid it, we must adapt to it.