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I was contacted by a journalist who is writing a piece for a national newspaper on the use of social media by business and management students in their job search. It’s an interesting and very current topic, I guess, but is it true that managers have moved online in their career development?

My answer(s):

moved online? Yes.

Online to sell themsleves overtly? Only partly, and then mostly only because that appears to be what everyone else is doing, or what everyone else says everyone else is doing; following the crowd (not necessarily a bad thing). In summary here is how I see it:

1.       To an extent, there is still a digital divide according to age in the use of social media by Business and management students.

2.       Younger users of Social Media can navigate the myriad emergent means of communication with ease, and may use these as their primary way of keeping in touch with others, finding information or just “getting things done”. Any boundaries between these different platforms are what these users are looking to break down, and the fluid nature of the virtual self and identity is embraced.

3.       Older users (which covers most of those who are undertaking an MBA, particularly in Europe) are still predominantly and primarily using email to communicate the important stuff. They like LinkedIn because they are reasonably comfortable with the idea of transferring their (probably over-long) paper chronological resumes onto the site. Although many managers are fascinated by what technology can do for their productivity, with regard to protecting their self-identities, boundaries between different platforms are what they are seeking to put up, not dissolve.

4.       LinkedIn itself is seen by most mid-career MBAs as a way of building potentially useful networks of people they already know or already have common ground with (this is reinforced by the sense of community that Business Schools try to create). These contacts are often seen as being part of establishing credibility in their identity in their current job environment. They may appreciate that LinkedIn is also a shop-window, and that the hype says that many companies now recruit there, but this is not usually the main reason they are there. A benefit of social media has they appreciate rather more is the way in which interesting content can be shared and made accessible (e.g. links to magazine articles, papers etc.).

5.       The types of jobs Henley MBAs are moving into are often not those recruited by answering job ads, online or not. However, the ability to connect with head-hunters in a more direct route is interesting and it’s possible that they will use Social Media for this more in the future. LinkedIn has emerged as the place to do this, I would say (much more so than Facebook).

6.       A lot of older people feel that Twitter is a great answer to a question no-one has asked. This may be changing slowly, but see points 2 and 3 above.

7.       My advice for anyone looking to use social media to boost their career prospects?

a.       Golden rule: always give something before you expect to get something back.

b.      Be consistent and ethical in your online presence – there is no doubt that others that don’t know you will be able to join the dots fairly easily, and the resulting picture is what your “brand”looks like to them. You can be one thing on Facebook, another on your blog and a third on LinkedIn, but you will not be using the interconnectivity of the web these days to your advantage.

c.       Be open to new ideas. Try Twitter, start a blog. Don’t be discouraged. Follow others that you admire and learn from them.

Someone finding a job (other than as a blogger) on the strength of their blog is, I’d say, possible but very rare. It’s more likely, in situations where there is some competitive for a position, that a person can demonstrate enough “savvy” via their various online activities to avoid being eliminated in an early round.


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