Sunday, January 25, 2009

Should people limit their online networking to "professional" purposes only? What about "second lives"? Facebook, LinkeIn recommended for pros


The issue of social networking sites and job hunting keeps growing, especially now in this severe recession. Today Ted Kustin has a major article in the Jobs section (page K1) of the Jan. 25, 2009 Washington Post, “It’s All About Who You Know – and Who They Know”, link here.

The article suggests that job seekers use social networking sites, especially LinkedIn and Facebook, as the focus of their networking online for employment, and keep their proflles limited to business information.

Myspace is seen as much less appropriate (and much less visible to business) for most job-related networking, outside of the entertainment and media worlds, where it is probably very relevant (after all Myspace belongs to a media company).

The article suggests that one can set up Wordpress blogs on both LinkedIn and Facebook, and that such blogs should be limited to professional content. There are those in the industry who say, however, that one should always rent his own space for a “serious” or
professional” blog, and not depend on “free services” which sometimes have trouble separating legitimate content from spam.

The article also suggests that employers are likely to start in search engines first, and then look particularly at LinkedIn and Facebook. The job seeker should be conscious of the ease with which the wrong person can be identified, especially in search engines, and structure her presence accordingly.

I don’t question that this is pretty good advice for many job seekers, especially recent graduates. After all, Facebook originated in the university community (Harvard) and always intended to focus more on academic and professional networking rather than just fun, and has generally been stricter about terms of use (especially recently) than Myspace. What about political activism? I’ll get to that below, but sometimes college and graduate students can structure their careers around some kind of synergy. I know a grad student who makes his living off of the pandora’s box of problems emanating from the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act). For some people, controversy can pay the mortgage.

I tried my own legal name today “John W. Boushka” and found the following sequence: Johnwboushka.com (which is a supposedly “professional” IT site set up on Network Solutions), Blogger, doaskdotell (the large site related to my books), my Linked In site, and finally billboushka.com. “Bill Boushka” is the pen name I used for my books (since my middle name is “William”) and it is an experimental site that I set up for certain uses, including Wordpress.

I also have beaucoup pages of references all over the Net in search engines.

Where does this leave me. Understand two things. Most of my 30+-years-long IT career, I was a mainframe programmer-analyst, heavy COBOL, and an individual contributor (the kind who carried a beeper and fixed night “S0C7” events). I got into writing and self-publishing as “career number 2” in the middle 1990s, partly because of the confluence of a sensitive political issue (“don’t ask don’t tell”) and a traumatic event that had happened early in my life. By 1998, I had discovered that I could at least get a lot of people who couldn’t afford the book to read the content if I put it online. So I developed my sites, which evolved. The technology was old – mostly flat, static HTML, unglamorous, but quickly loading, easily found in search engines, and brutally effective. I became like an old mainframe shop still using DOS and Assembler (like Chilton Corporation in Dallas, where I started working in the early 1980s). Much of that material is still around and indexed as “legacy content.”

As some early 70s song whose name (like “la-la-la”) I can’t remember says, “so much has changed.” The web experience in 1998 was largely one of publishing and the beginnings of free content and open source; by 2002 or so, blogging was coming into its own, and by 2004, social networking came out (pun intended), after which employers started to perceive personal online activity as connected to their business. In a way, social networking sites may have, somewhat unintentionally, weakened the case for personal political participation (outside of organizations and lobbyists) because employers would want to find presence that promoted business only, in a “partisan” manner. That’s a big societal and governance concern, because the “democratized” Web ought to reduce the influence of lobbyists and special interests, but it cannot if individuals feel afraid to speak up publicly (under their own name) because of their employment situation. People in the gay rights area have known about this problem for decades.

As for mainframe jobs, employers can hardly expect people in their 60s to proudly confine their online presence to old legacy mainframe experience, except maybe in some rare niche areas. (Who wants to spend his life in extended stay motels keeping old IMS shops running? A very few “professionals” still do; they are infinitely rare and infinitely expensive.) In fact, staffing companies (and their clients) need to come clean about what they really need – and the market, while partially recovering around 2003 or so, has remained politicized because of the unworthy business practices common during the Bush years (hopefully this is now going to change – it has to). But some people have a problem with the idea of people speaking out on their own and attracting attention to themselves without prior loyalty or accountability to someone (even family).

A logical question comes to mind: can one “ethically” (and I don’t mean through anonymity or pseudonyms) maintain a dual presence on the web: a LinkedIn or Facebook presence for individual contributor technical jobs only, and Blogger, independent sites or Myspace for political or personal stuff? I would love to hear comments on that.

These concerns would sound less relevant to federal employment with USAJOBS, where the application process is very structured and regulated to make it "fair" and "neutral". Political appointments are a different matter, although the new president says he wants to eliminate political favoritism. (Has any president yet?)

As for “career 2”, my main objective ought to promote the “brand” doaskdotell, which I have used as a domain name for 10 years, into a viable commercial operation dealing with leading edge social and political issues (not limited to ending “don’t ask don’t tell”) in the media. Yes, I may have to restructure everything to do this. But it is a long and evolving process.

1 comment:

Ray said...

Here's 3 job sites from about.com's top ten job sites-

www.linkedin.com (professional networking)
www.indeed.com (aggregated listings)
www.realmatch.com (matches jobs based on your skills)

good luck to those looking.