Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Using social media as job search and career development business analysis resources 6: career timeframes and career development 1

This is my sixth installment to a series on the points of intersection between business intelligence and its gathering, and social media and related interactive online channels as sources of actionable information and insight, as they can be applied to job search and career development (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 397 and following for Parts 1-5.)

I listed a starter set of ten online resources in Part 4 of this series, that can be used as sources of business intelligence, in strategically planning for and executing on job search and career development campaigns. I then began more fully discussing how these and similar online and social media enabled resources can be used in this, focusing on job search in Part 5. My goal for this series installment is to switch directions from that of securing a new next job or of working day-to-day at it, to consider career development and meeting its needs and requirements.

This requires taking a perspective that very few of us actively consider and certainly when just starting out on our work lives. And it is just as certain that few of us consider this perspective when actively pursuing our careers and as we work on jobs and seek out next ones. Surprisingly few of us even seem to fully consider this when we are forced to make fundamental career path changes too, only seeking out a next job without looking beyond our more immediate here-and-now challenges.

• People who think in terms of their here-and-now and their current job or the job search at hand,
• But also think in terms of a larger career path perspective, are much more likely to realize the overall careers that they would individually most want to achieve,
• And they are much more likely to realize both long-term career success, and long-term satisfaction and happiness from their work and career experience.

I ended Part 5 with some anticipatory notes that I added as lead-in to this posting. And I repeat them here for their overall importance to any career planning and to any real understanding as to what career planning means:

• We tend to plan and conduct our job searches in the immediate here-and-now and with most of our attention focused on the immediate task of getting hired so we can bring in an immediate here-and-now paycheck. And then when we get hired and we are working on a job we tend to focus in on the immediate day-to-day of our work there and on completing the tasks that we have immediately at hand too. Career planning follows a very different timeline and we need to develop a very particular form of dual vision in balancing here-and-now job, and longer-term career needs.

So my focus for this posting, at least as a starting point, is “discuss how we can use social media and related interactive online resources in improving both sides to our dual vision for this, and with a focus on more fully exploring the career side to this, which can be all too easy to overlook in our day-to-day rush.”

I begin addressing that with a question, which I admit up front is not always as easy to answer in real world contexts, as it might seem to be when considered in the abstract, as for example as it is posed here:

• You are looking for a new job and have family obligations and bills to pay, so you face significant pressure to focus on the immediate here and now, of where you would gain the most in the way of salary and benefits right away. And as with most of us when seeking a new job, you apply to multiple possible job openings that you might be a strong candidate for, to increase your chances of being hired.
• And you are offered two jobs, both of which you are confident you could succeed at, and both for being able to do the work called for with your more technical skills, and for your comfort level in working with the people you would be working with and in the context of their corporate culture.
• One of these positions: call it job opportunity A would offer a larger up-front compensation package with better overall benefits as well as a higher starting salary. But you know that if you take this job and succeed as you are certain you could, then it is likely that you would end up typecast in the minds of your manager and their manager, and among your colleagues as a narrow focus specialist, and in ways that would at the very least limit your opportunity for advancement there. And the types of success points that you could develop there that might go into a next job search resume, if for example you chose to move on in order to advance, would likely be narrow and specialist too, in effect perpetuating this typecasting and stereotyping.
• The other of these positions: call it job opportunity B would be with a smaller and younger business with a much smaller headcount, where everyone has to in effect wear multiple hats to get everything done. And this work opportunity would very specifically allow you to both learn new skills and gain new types of experience that you could use in your career development. And if you succeeded there as this business grew and as it expanded its headcount to match that, there would likely be opportunity for you to advance your career at this business too. And of course, the skills and experience that you gained there would hold potentially very significant value in a next career step resume when and if you chose to move on to work elsewhere too. But as intimated in my opportunity A bullet point, above, if you take this job you will have to accept lower pay and benefits and probably for a significant period of time, going way beyond the end of any initial new employee probationary period.
• Which of these job opportunities should you take?

That is a trick question, and it is probably unfair to ask it as is, and for reasons that at the very least fit into why I am including this decision scenario here. If you simply go by the job descriptions that are offered by these businesses, you might not see enough of the details as to what is involved in A and B to be able to clearly discern more than the barest outlines of what you would do in an immediate now, and what range of compensation you would get. The company hiring for A is big and established, and the one hiring for B is smaller and lean and no one there is getting as much compensation as its owner and CEO would want their people to get, themselves included.

If you use more traditional central publishing business intelligence sources to learn about these businesses and to try to discern what you would be facing if you accepted for A or B, you would undoubtedly learn more than you would from those job descriptions alone (see Part 2.) But it is unlikely that you would gain the fuller understanding of these job options or of their longer-term career development implications from those sources, that you would want and need in making a best decision here.

Adding social media as sources of business insight would be of real value for that. And to put this point in more specific focus here, let’s consider LinkedIn as a source of business intelligence here, at least as a starting point.

• You conduct LinkedIn member profile searches looking for people who work at the hiring companies for these positions. And as a part of that, you focus in to see the profiles of employees at these businesses who work in the areas that you would be working in, as your “home” on their tables of organization. And you study the profiles of people who work at what are at least comparable levels on their tables of organization too. Think functional areas here for the first of these sets of profile reviews. And separately and as a second set of profile reviews if need be, think levels on the table or organization where level of management authority and responsibility might be important considerations.
• What do these people write about as to the scope and range of their work responsibilities and experience? The people who work in your specialty area in the business that is hiring for opportunity A are much more likely to be more constrained in what they write about as to what they do and what they have accomplished there. And their current work there is more likely to follow a more linear trajectory for work within one area of specialization from their past work history as outlined in their online profile too. They are more likely to read as being typecast as single limited-skillset specialists. The people you read about from the smaller business that is hiring for opportunity B are more likely to write more broadly of what they do and of what they have accomplished, and you might very well see more indications of promotion and advancement there too.

Do not stop there; never only look to one social media channel for this type of insight, and no matter how valuable you might see it as a source of information. Look these same people up on Facebook and other sites as well. And certainly on LinkedIn because it is so business oriented, reach out to network connect with them, or at least with select members of this list. Express interest in learning more about their company and their area of work at it and reach out to start a conversation. Some will chose not to network with people they do not already know. Some will connect but not prove very useful for gaining deeper insight. Some might offer real value, and even if that just means helping you to find groups they belong to online that you should join and be involved with too – and that, you can learn in large part just by reading their full LinkedIn profiles where they list the LinkedIn groups that they belong to.

There is a catch there. In order to see full profiles on LinkedIn you have to be at least a second degree connection with the people you wish to learn more about there. So making effective use of a site like LinkedIn for this requires that you network openly and widely, so you can both increase your own visibility there, and so you can increase your range of vision there too. And I note in that context, that a linear increase in your number of direct networking connections can expand your overall networking reach of what you can see on this site at a much faster nonlinear rate. See Social Network Taxonomy and Social Networking Strategy for a discussion of how that works, and can be made to work.

I began the core discussion of this posting by noting how we need to develop a dual vision in managing jobs and careers, where they follow very different timeframes. I then illustrated something of the give-and-take dynamics that arise when seeking to address both at once, with my job opportunity A/job opportunity B example. I am going to more systematically and fully discuss these and related issues in my next series installment. And then as promised in each of the last several series installments, I will finally turn this business intelligence discussion around, shifting from the perspective of what we can learn online about businesses and business professionals, to that of what others can learn about us online and as that impacts upon our job search and longer-term career development efforts. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and at the first directory page and second, continuation page to this Guide. And you can find this and related material at Social Networking and Business and its continuation page too.

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