Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Making effective use of online groups in a job search

Posted in job search and career development by Timothy Platt on April 8, 2010

There are literally hundreds of thousands of online groups out there when you look to sites like www.linkedin.com, www.google.com, www.yahoo.com and www.ning.com and when you add in all of the smaller sites, and sites that cater to more limited membership (e.g. professional organization and school web sites) that number goes up by an order of magnitude. A great many of them have words like “job” in their names, or “recruiter” or “employment”. Many focus on specific industries or functional areas, or geographic regions that would address criteria that might influence how you select positions to apply for. A lot of people select and join online groups as a part of their job search. The problem is that for many job seekers this is simply something they do without receiving any positive return from it.

I am going to focus in this posting on:

• How to find the right groups for you that can offer value towards reaching your goals.
• How to more effectively participate in those groups to help you reach those goals.

Finding the right groups for you – start out with some due diligence:

• Look at the group and its membership size.
• How actively do members post to it?
• Do all of the postings seem to come from just a few individuals? If so, are these specific people you want to directly network with? Are they all coming from the group owner or moderator?
• Is a lot of what is posted unrelated to the expected area of focus for the group and perhaps even spam?
• Any spammers aside, what types of things do people in the group post on? Would those postings address your needs and interests?
• What are the demographics of the group? Does the group membership seem to consist primarily of other job seekers or do others in your field who currently have good jobs also join it and post at least occasionally?
• Would this group be a good resource for learning more about the field you seek a new position in, with its current issues and priorities?
• Would this be a good resource for finding specific individuals to network with for sharing ideas and at least occasionally for developing new leads as well?

The idea here is that you want to find and join groups that connect with your search strategy and your goals and that will help you to more effectively pursue both. The bullet points I listed above may very well not be your best list of criteria for evaluating and selecting groups to join but it is important that you think through what you want to accomplish and how participating in networking and information sharing online groups can help you – and what you would need to find in these groups for them to be able to do this.

Connecting to the group and actively participating:

• If you join and simply lurk, occasionally reading a few postings but never contributing with a posting of your own, you will gain little if anything of sustaining value from that group.
• Post an introduction and greeting, telling the group membership who you are. Touch briefly on what you are looking for and on what you bring to the group as value you offer it.
• Post on issues that are meaningful to you and that connect with your strategy and search goals – seek to develop new contacts and to start conversations.
• Always reply to comments added in response to your postings and reach out to directly network with people who offer comments that look to be well reasoned and thoughtful.
• Online networking groups are one place where you have to offer value and be involved, to really derive value. If you just read postings but are yourself invisible to the group you gain little value. If you never carry through in any way on what you read in those postings either you gain that much less. And the group as a whole is that much more impoverished because one more member is just a member in name only.

How many online groups should you join and how should you allocate your online group participation time among them? I grouped two issues here in this section of the posting as they closely connect.

• You want to limit your time in any one area or activity of your search to make sure you make effective use of your overall search effort, online group participation included.
• How much time you devote to group participation should in most cases be a somewhat fluid quantity and be dependent on what else you are doing and on where you are in your search and with your specific job search campaigns.
• You don’t have to spend equal amounts of time and effort on each of the groups you join, but stay actively enough involved with all of them, with at least periodic checks and postings from you to stay connected and involved.

Bringing your postings into focus and managing your settings:

• You don’t have to post every day, by any means, but you want your postings to be relevant to the group as well as to your search.
• Manage your email inbox by selectively setting your preferences for how you would get word of group activity. Most people would not want a separate email message coming in for every posting added and even daily summaries can get to be burdensome for the volume of email coming in. Decide between daily and weekly update emails if you have the choice.
• Always set your preferences so you get an email when someone posts a reply to your postings and certainly for the groups you frequent less often on your list. That great comment in reply might come in a week or more after you posted as someone you would want to network with catches up on their inbox.
• If you are really actively involved in pursuing a specific position, focus on that. Though even there, if you are actively involved in the right groups you may be able to tap into them to gain insight that would help you with this search campaign.
• If you do seek specific insight of this sort regarding a specific job search campaign be very discrete and never name the company itself. Among other things, the hiring manager you are meeting with may be a member of that group too, or they may have a close networking contact who is who would tell them about a posting naming their company and functional area.
• Don’t automatically include your email address in your postings or in any public facing comments or replies. Leave your LinkedIn or other profile URL where people can go to message you to start an out-of-group or off-line conversation

Should you set up a group or help to moderate one already in place?

This can involve taking on a time commitment and it can require some effort on your part, but this can also help you get your name out there and can increase your networking and marketing reach – if you moderate effectively in promoting relevant postings and discussions and in limiting the spammers, abusive postings and other disruptors. I would recommend actively participating on one or more groups first so you can be sure you know what you would be getting into. Then try co-moderating a group if you want to test the waters for running your own with some real world experience first.

Online social networking groups can be either a colossal waste of time or they can add real value to your search. What online groups can be for you is all a matter of:

• What you put into being a member of them and
• How well you strategically connect your participation in these groups to your overall search and your specific job search campaigns.

My next posting in this job search and career development best practices series will look further into groups and focus on professional organizations and networking groups that orient around face to face meetings.

5 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. James Ko said, on April 9, 2010 at 10:12 am

    Dear Mr. Platt,
    I was 1976 SIT, Management Science. Still in the transition after I sent over 1000 resumes. Just need some help. Can you please comment from your expertise?

    • Timothy Platt said, on April 9, 2010 at 1:54 pm

      Hi James,

      I just emailed you to take this conversation off-line but I will also post an entry in the job search and career development best practices series on what may be a significant part of this for you and for others in your situation.

      Thank you for sharing your reply with this blog and me and good fortune as you move forward in your search.

      Tim Platt

  2. […] I posted an installment in my ongoing job search and career development best practices series on Making Effective Use of Online Groups in a Job Search. At the end of that posting I said I would delve into some of the core issues and opportunities for […]

  3. Social Computing Platforms said, on April 15, 2010 at 12:11 am

    […] Read more: Making effective use of online groups in a job search « Platt … […]

  4. […] here to read the rest: Making effective use of online groups in a job search « Platt … into-being, search, social-networking, […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: