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You’ve probably heard that between 40% and 80% of people find their jobs through networking. Whoever quoted the statistic to you likely didn’t cite a source, but it made sense so you accepted it at face value. The research on this topic is actually extensive and brings mixed conclusions, yet even the author of one of the papers most skeptical of the benefits of networking states in his conclusion:
I also think it would be naive to argue that contacts do not matter. I believe the weight of anecotal evidence and intuition suggests that being “well connected” is an advantage in the labor market.
You want an “advantage in the labor market,” right? Then networking needs to be part of your job search strategy.
Unfortunately, networking requires managing many relationships, and that’s really hard. Dunbar’s number says that humans are only capable of maintaining 150 stable social relationships. When networking meant talking to people face to face, it was easy to stay within this number. Now, social networks allow you to blow past it by an order of magnitude or two.
How do you maintain relationships with thousands of people? And once you do that, how do you process all of the information that these “friends” are constantly generating with their social media profiles?
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, WordPress, Flickr, Foursquare, and on and on it goes. Each is intended to make it easier for you to connect with your friends, acquaintances, co-workers, and even strangers. And that’s exactly what these sites do, but they don’t offer much when it comes to helping you manage these connections. They just spew information at you.
One of the early problems with the Internet was organizing information properly. If you take a look at popular sites from the late 90s, you’ll notice that the navigation schemes are extremely logical. Even Yahoo circa 1998, which was the main way people found information online, relied on a directory structure. Now take a look at your favorite blog or a corporate website. The navigation isn’t nearly as obvious—mostly because the information is no longer forced to fit neatly into hierarchies.
There’s one reason why this became possible. Search, and more specifically, Google.
When you’re looking for specific information on a website, you don’t start at the home page and navigate until you find it. You type what you’re looking for into Google, and expect it to give you exactly what you want. It usually does. The Internet didn’t used to be so easy.
Just how search changed the face of the Internet in the early 2000s, social networking changed the face of the Internet in the late 2000s. It altered the way that we consume and find information.
So, what’s next? Social search.
Up until now, social networks and search have been generally incompatible. Yes, it’s easy to find someone’s Facebook profile if you search for his or her name/e-mail address. Yes, you can find random tweets that mention your search query. But search results from social networks aren’t relevant to you.
Even worse, your social networks are constantly spitting out new information. Once you pass a certain threshold of friends, there’s no way that you can keep up, so you start skipping stuff and ignoring it.
But what are you missing out on?
One of the biggest flaws of social networking sites is that they take a chronological approach to displaying information—they make the assumption that more recent posts, tweets, photos, and status updates are more relevant to you. In some ways this is good; real-time information is a wonderful resource. Unfortunately, this approach completely ignores relevance.
Your friend’s most recent Farmville accomplishment is just as important as the fact that your cousin posted pictures of her new baby? I don’t think so. Even worse is the fact that your friend’s rant about terrible service at a restaurant is nowhere to be found because he posted it 2 weeks ago, and you never saw it. And you’re about to make a reservation there.
The value of your network is being wasted by social networking sites. Instead of having rich interactions, you’re sitting back and watching a timeline fly by with information that is mostly meaningless to you. What if you could spend most of your time doing real networking, and then use search to make sense of the information provided across your social networks?
I always wondered why Twitter, which is heavily focused on search and trending topics, didn’t give me an option to search the tweets of people whom I’m following.
Now, they’re too late.
Google stepped in and announced that they have rolled out Social Search to all users.
Social Search is Google for the content created by your connections. I was going to write a short tutorial on how to use it, but Google has produced an excellent video on the basics of Social Search (feed/e-mail readers can click through to view it).
The best part about Google Social Search is that it gets integrated into your regular search results. Once you have it set up, all you need to do is search like you always have. Type in the name of the restaurant, and you’ll see your uncle’s rave review posted on his blog. Look for information about a company’s jobs, and you’ll find my One Day, One Job profile of that company.
The only barrier to entry is taking a few minutes to link your Google profile to your other social media profiles and links about you on the web.
Google only uses publicly available information for your Social Search results. That means that closed Facebook and LinkedIn profiles won’t make it in your search results, but Twitter will. They’ll also pull in information from your Gmail contacts and Google Reader feeds. Down the road I’m sure they’ll be able to find more and more connections that are relevant to you, and they’ll even get pretty good at figuring out which of your connections are more relevant that others.
Ok, that’s an overstatement. Networking will never be easy. Meeting new people is hard, and doing it in an authentic way while you’re trying to advance your job search at the same time requires practice, maturity, and astuteness. Google is never going to make friends for you (although I wouldn’t be surprised to see it make suggestions). If that’s what you’re waiting for, you’re out of luck.
Google Social Search’s value is that it’s going to help you consume the information created by your network. If your friend tweets about a job opportunity, you’ll be able to find it through search. If you’re researching a company, you’ll be able to see that your favorite blogger works there.
If you’ve already read my article How to Use Google to Find a Job, you know that Google is by far my favorite online job search tool. With Social Search, Google just got a lot better.
This is just the beginning of the merging social media and search. There’s a lot more to come, and it’s going to revolutionize the job search; in fact, it already has.
Now is the time to get familiar with Google Social Search and to start using it in your job search. It just exponentially increased the value of social networking as a job search strategy.
How are you going to use Google Social Search to push your job search forward?
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