When I was in eighth grade, the only one with a cell phone was the local drug dealer. Scratch that – it was a pager. We still had film strips. And the dozen of us who dialed up to America Online regularly threw sleepovers where we tried to find a scantily clad coed who took less than 20 minutes to download.
Now students type notes in smart phones, lecture halls are veritable movie theaters with stadium seating, and school libraries are more wired than the weird kid who sniffed the glue in the supply closer.
As someone who comes from an online creative and social media background, few things bother me more than how much people misunderstand how online networking tools can hook you up with your next job. It’s not really their fault as much as it is our education system’s fault, as this is a lesson that should begin when dudes voices are changing and ladies are still have pillow fights at sleepovers.
The news media is ripe with stories about how online social media can rev up your career search, but the problem is that everyone from guidance counselors to academic advisors don’t know the best protocol for leveraging these tools. The biggest misunderstanding about effectively using Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to help you land a job is that you’re not looking for direct points of contact with potential employers. In other words, a hiring manager at a technology company probably won’t randomly locate your Facebook status noting that you’re “Looking for a software engineering gig work in Boston.” But an old high school buddy or long lost ex-lover might see this status and get the networking’ wheels a turnin’. Such was the case with one family man and job seeker CNN recently highlighted in its series on how to get hired.
The upshot of this all is that in order to effectively network and find a new job online, you need to be tech savvy and personable. And a little lucky. Social networking platforms are simply an extension of traditional schmoozing; if you have a limp handshake or trouble making small talk with strangers, technology can help – but won’t solve these shortcomings. But teaching America’s future workforce how to deftly integrate technology into traditional job search tactics is key – and it’s simply not happening at the same pace it is abroad.
For example, across the pond in the U.K., primary school lads and lasses are being taught everything from keyboard skills to blogging and podcasting. In America, you’re more likely to see five kids huddled around a Tandy pecking away DOS commands.
When I was in my 20s, I wished my public schooling had taught me how to change my own oil, understand credit card interest rates, and fill out a 1040EZ. As an editor for a few social media websites, I now see a much greater need for teaching both basic job searching manners – everything from having appropriate email addresses to how to format an email cover letter – as well as how to harness the power of social media for their job searches.
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