A few months ago, I had a conversation with Laura, whom I’ve worked with in the past, about her recent job search experience. She had been part of a layoff, and her description of how social media had played into her job search struck me as something the Geek Girls Guide audience might be interested in. Sure, there’s the requisite “using LinkedIn to network” kind of angle, but what was truly unique to me was how social media (namely the Group feature on both Facebook and LinkedIn) had allowed this group of people to remain connected with each other long after the layoff was over.
In my own past, I’ve worked at a couple of advertising agencies where layoffs are a part of life. Lose a big client, and everyone braces themselves for the axe to fall. After a day of layoffs, both those who were let go and those who weren’t would generally meet at a bar somewhere and commisserate. And that’s about where it would end.
But that was before social media gave us the ability to organize ourselves on the fly. And Laura’s story illustrates how a group of people — like the ones let go from her company — can self-organize to continue to provide support to each other long after the layoff.
One of the books I highly recommend to anyone interested in learning more about what social media from a sociological (vs. tactical) perspective is Clay Shirky’s “Here Comes Everybody.” (Nancy likes to make fun of my for my Shirky fangirl tendencies, but what can I say?! Dude is brilliant.) The subtitle of his book is “The Power of Organizing Without Organizations” and Laura’s story below illustrates that point perfectly.
This fall I suddenly and unexpectedly lost my job when my position as an interactive marketing planner was eliminated as part of a massive layoff. As you would imagine (or maybe you know) the days immediately following were extremely confusing and humbling. I know how to maximize every minute of a 50-hour week job and manage a household, but I felt paralyzed and unsure how to prioritize what to do first, next, or not at all after the layoff.
I began telling myself that I was well-equipped to attack the impending job search. After all, a job search is the equivalent of developing a marketing plan, of which I’ve spent the bulk of my career in practice. Furthermore, in my most recent position, I was responsible for developing online media strategy (including the use of social networks) for executive recruitment at my company. So I kept telling myself “I know how to work this thing”. Then I’d freeze up again.
Within a few days I had my resume updated and was ready to start connecting with my network of friends and former colleagues to help me identify job leads. The support, information and leads I have received from my established networks on Facebook and LinkedIn have been, and continue to be, incredibly beneficial.
As tactically-focused as I tried to be, there were moments when I couldn’t get through checking my pages without being brought to tears. Somebody I knew well, or even casually would tell me how sorry they were, tell me I was talented, offer up where they had connections, or ask for my resume so they could pass it along. The thoughts, the kindness, the offers affected me profoundly. The support and validation from my professional and social networks was as important as the job leads themselves. I expected some of the kind words and support. My networks are full of my friends.
What I did not expect was the creation and appearance of a unique group on both Facebook and LinkedIn. The groups were created by, and for, those individuals that were part of the layoff. I joined the groups, and would describe them as part job lead swap, and part support group. When a member comes across a job lead that isn’t a fit for them, they post it. Usually with an accompanying offer of an introduction to their connection and/or a recommendation.
Recruiters and curious outsiders began requesting entrance to the group and it was put to vote. Some people felt that the more accessible and visible our job search content was, the better (really great point). However, a majority voted for the Facebook group to stay closed so that we had a confidential and mutually understood place to go, so regardless of whether that day we needed a job lead, a place to vent, or a discussion thread about how to best navigate our severance benefits, it was a safe place to be. If an unrecognized request to join came through, the group administrator sent it out to the group so someone could vouch. There actually was a recruiter that got in on the first couple of days before the vote and she graciously announced that she would leave and connect with us on Linked In. We did vote to open the Linked In group to anyone who wanted to help with leads and connections.
The most important thing I learned about using social media in my job search is how powerful it is in delivering qualified job leads. It helped me avoid the atrophy of sifting through hundreds of openings that were not interesting, or that weren’t a good fit or that I didn’t have a connection to help me get in. When I did pursue leads, I was going in for my interviews with a recommendation from the connection who had posted the lead.
I also was reminded why I love working in the interactive media space. It is filled with so many smart, supportive, generous, creative people. Thank you.
Laura Wadzinski is a Client Services Manager at The Lacek Group. She has led strategic planning and project management both on the agency side and on the corporate side.