You probably don’t know someone who can get you a job. Most of the people you know won’t be a good fit at your company. You are not the best judge either. The odds are that if you know someone who would be a great addition to the team, it’s hard for you to see it.
That doesn’t sound much like the land of milk and honey described by the proponents of social media as a recruiting and job hunting tool. In that land, where marketing claims are reality, you are somehow blessed with connections that either get you a job or help your employer staff the company.
It probably isn’t so.
The problem is that our universes of friends and family are there for a variety of reasons. Unless you spent time optimizing your world for career benefit, it’s likely to be better at providing love, support and an economic safety net.
The idea that, somehow, your college classmates constitute a gateway to professional oportunity is fairly odd. When you come out of school with your class, you are all starting at about the same time. While one or more of you may be able to spot an opening, none of the group will have adequate social capital to make a recommendation that can be guaranteed to produce results. While you share interests and history as a group, the ability to do each other favors doesn’t reeally emerge for a decade or so.
In one’s thirties, the few people who have retained close ties with their college chums are those without life partners and children. The college gang fades away as life intrudes. By the time one is placed well enough to influence a friend’s career, those relationships have often diminished in importance and immediacy.
It is possible to build an effective social network as one’s career progresses. This is more likely to be done by sales people than operations experts. There is a significant question about whether or not many people will take the time and energy to actually invest in opportunity producing social structures. Historically, the issue only rises at the time of a transition.
The use and utility of career networks varies significantly by industry and region. If you live in Detroit, work in the auto industry and need to find a job, your network is not liable to serve you well. If you live in LA, work in the movie industry and are looking for the next project, the network is your best choice. Aerospace doesn’t foster long term career connections. The military does. West Virginia mining twons rarely produce powerful cross-company networks. Silicon Valley does it all of the time.
The other really big problem is context.
Referral programs depend on your ability and willingness to identify which of your friends is a good match for the company. The trouble is that that’s not how you usually know them. While he may be the world’s greatest gene sequencer, you know him as the guy who makes Charlie Sheen look like a model of decorum. Your pal who happens to be a great coder is the guy who got the girl.
And so on.
Making great personnel judgments is not how we know and interact with friends and family. The truth is that you may well know all of the right people but, in the most human of ways, won’t be able to see them.
Keep your eyes on this space. We’re wrapping up our first ever comprehensive analysis of social media in the HR and Recruiting sectors. The report will be available for sale on the 15th of October.