Let me start with a confession: Scott Abel was right. More specifically, Scott Abel was right and I ignored his advice.
One of my favorite sayings is an expert is someone who has made all the mistakes possible in a given field. (Assuming, of course, you don’t keep repeating them.) But just when I thought I’d made all the mistakes possible in my field, they go and change the field!
I am referring to the explosion of social media and networking services, such as Facebook, Twitter, and blog-enabled corporate websites, etc.
Another confession: I am resistive to change. Not all change—I absolutely loved the jump from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95 and the next generation of online help available as a result—but I have finally realized that when it comes to certain technological changes, I am resistance personified.
For example, I remember loving my old amber monochrome monitor and thinking why in the world would someone need a color monitor? I remember thinking the pre-web online communities AOL and Compuserve were for silly people and geeks who had nothing better to do, that wikis and web pages where a fad, that blogs were a fad, that iPhones were a fad, that social networking in particular was just a fad.
And really, who needs an app for that anyway?
About each of the above I was wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong and…wrong.
Maybe my resistance to technological change is generational. These platforms for user-generated content, social interaction, etc. didn’t exist five years ago, let alone when I started my career. Heck, my first computer science class was on punch cards and we wrote documentation on yellow pads that we handed off to the typing pool!
On the other hand, maybe I just value face-to-face human interaction so much that I resist yet another technology “advancement” that puts me yet another step further removed from “real” social interaction.
Either way, I should have started riding the wave of social media more than a year ago when Scott advised me to. Don’t take me wrong—I’m now on Facebook,Twitter, and Linkedin and actively use them, but I look back on what might have been think I should have started much earlier and with a more focused plan.
Why am airing my resistance to technology change in such an open forum? Because I bet that many of you reading this have had (or still have) similar resistance to jumping on the social media bandwagon.
How can I tell? Because I ask people if they are on Twitter and they sigh, shake their head and say they just don’t have the time.
(Ooooo, I recognize that defeatist attitude. Been there, done that! Plus, that’s a totally false perception of what Twitter is how long it takes to use.)
I just returned from LavaCon 2009, The Seventh Annual Conference on Professional Development. I always know I put together a good program when I learn something at my own conference! Let me share a few “ah HA!” realizations I had this week:
I’m currently using Twitter and know there is functionality in Twitter and other third-party tools that I am not taking advantage of, so I attended Scott Abel’s hands-on Twitter workshop. During the workshop Scott explained how Twitter is more than just a vehicle to proclaim, “I’m going for coffee” or “Geaux Tigers Geaux!” It is also a valuable tool for collecting and disseminating business information, for developing your own personal brand, etc.
For example, he mentioned there are third-party tools that search for keywords in Twitter posts and aggregate them into news feeds that websites can integrate into their content. I thought that was mildly interesting, but I’d never seen it personally.
Then next morning I sat in on Scott’s second session (on the future of eBooks), but slipped out to the registration table mid-session to check my email. When I did I found an email from Google alerting me that a page with the word “lavacon” had been indexed, so I clicked on the link to view the page. (I have a Google Alert for “lavacon” to monitor what people are saying about my conference.)
The page that displayed was a “Breaking News 24/7” website, and on the right side of the page was a concatenation of Twitter posts. Someone had just tweeted something from Scott Abel’s eBooks session at LavaCon, and it was posted in a real time news feed!
I could hardly believe my eyes. Scott had just explained this functionality the previous afternoon, and here it was in play!
And the truly remarkable was the fact that I was just in that room where Scott was speaking. So by the time I walked from the session to the registration table, 1) someone tweeted Scott’s prediction about the future of eBooks, 2) it was picked up by a third party Twitter application and aggregated into a news feed, 3) the news feed was displayed on a breaking news website, 4) Google indexed it, and 5) Google sent me an email alerting me that a webpage containing “LavaCon” was just indexed.
All in less than five minutes!
This is what Scott meant by the power of social media!!
I am now officially one of those who no longer thinks, “Who cares what you are doing now…?” !
Another realization this week
One attracts Twitter followers in direct proportion to the content of your tweets. I have been using Twitter for months now, but the content I usually post are tips and advice on how to land a job or advance your career. Thus, many of my followers are people wanting (or needing) new jobs.
However, being a recruiter, I have two distinct customers: the clients from whom I get jobs to fill, and the candidates I find to fill them.
So my second “ah HA!” moment this week was when I realized that I’ve been looking high and low for jobs to fill, yet I’m only tweeting about subjects of interest to candidates. That is, I’ve been neglecting a full 50% (if not more) of my target audience: HR recruiters or hiring managers who have jobs to fill and who can use agencies to fill them.
So to attract the interest of people with jobs to fill, I need to tweet about subjects of interest to people with jobs to fill.
Seems like a pretty obvious datum now, but sometimes you are so stuck in handling day-to-day problems that you forget to stop and make sure you are adding actions to your to-do list that move you forward towards achieving your long-term goals. (Thanks to Andrea Ames’ keynote presentation for that reminder.)
Then the morning after the conference I was eating breakfast with professional career coach Emma Hamer, discussing the job market and mistakes professionals make when interviewing for jobs. During our discussion she mentioned that in her career coaching process, many seasoned professional have trouble stating what skills they bring to a potential employer, regardless of how long they have been in their field.
“Hard?” I said, “I can rattle off a list of 10 skills without even thinking!” and proceeded to do so. She listened attentively, nodded, and said, “That’s great, Jack. But you’re listing attributes (things about who you are) and activities (things you can do for someone), not skills.
Which skills make you good at what you do? So you are great at business development. Wonderful. Which skills make you great at business development? (Hint: interviewing, active listening, establishing trust, building rapport, etc.) If you can’t articulate that, then why should anyone believe you? Be prepared to show people, with concrete examples, how you’ve used those skills to great effect and how you can do the same for a potential employer.”
Ooops, I keep forgetting that while I’m a professional in my field, other people are professionals in theirs. Maybe I should spend less time thinking I can do it all and more time letting the professionals do what they do best.
Wow, three life- and career-changing realizations in less than 24 hours! And the last over a casual breakfast in a hole-in-the-wall in the French Quarter—not a place know for being an incubator for personal and professional development!
To recap, here are lessons I learned this week, and thus my advice to you:
- Don’t resist change. Change happens. Embrace it.
- When change happens, actively look for how you can use the change to advance your career. (Emma Hamer: Overcoming Resistance to Change, Career Makeover Workshop)
- Harness the potential of social media. You have a point of view, so figure out what you want to say and say it. (Or at least start repeating other people’s points of view with which you agree until you develop your own.)
- Identify your target audiences, and target those audiences with your personal and business communications.
- Have a plan. Your “Internet footprint” shouldn’t happen by accident. (Rahel Bailie: Managing Your Online Brand)
- Don’t tweet about what you think others might find interesting—tweet about what you find interesting. “Your people” will find you. (Chellie Campbell: The Wealthy Spirit.)
Not happy with your current situation? 2010 may be year to reinvent yourself.
Where do you want to take your career…?