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An Ornery Answer

I’ve generally agreed with most of the readings so far this semester, but this week I found myself skeptical on a few points (perhaps my “crap detector” was overly sensitive this week).

Closeness in Online Communities

Rheingold enthusiastically presents the benefits of online communities, but most of his examples of truly strong communities had non-digital aspects. He talks about having dinner with people he met online, having a picnic for 150 people in an online group, and raising money to support families going through cancer. Interestingly, this actually fits with the first definition given by Merriam-Webster for community: “a unified body of individuals, such as people with common interests living in a particular area.” This understanding of community has a physical and even geographic dimension.

To be clear, Rheingold does distinguish between networks of “weak ties” and communities. He writes, “To me, the difference between an online social network and a community has to do with the quality, continuity, and degree of commitment in the relationships between members” (pg. 163). I agree that there is a difference between your broad social network and your actual community; however, I’m still not sure how to reconcile the physical/geographic aspect of community included in Webster’s definition and in Rheingold’s examples with a solely online group. I think it is certainly valid to develop online relationships and strong groups that support each other without ever meeting in person. Turkle has numerous examples of this as she discusses people absorbed in Second Life, online games, or other digital worlds. Yet as Rheingold’s own examples prove, his most meaningful online relationships also have an offline connection.

community-words

Herriman Community Newsletter. http://www.herriman.org/community-newsletters/

Managing Your Network

Rheingold’s point about social capital and cultivating your network certainly resonates with most professional development advice today. He discusses reciprocity and doing things for others as an investment for when you later need help yourself. I approach networking a little skeptically because I don’t just want to be using people for my own gain. According to this Forbes article, I’m not alone, and studies have shown that networking leaves some people, especially those lower in the power hierarchy, feeling “physically dirty and morally impure” (Morin).

I think networking is effective when people are bound by a common goal, have a more nuanced  relationship, or have a mutually beneficial situation. Rheingold argues for the return on investment for “weak ties,” but it seems to me that most weak ties never produce tangible outcomes (although arguably it takes only that single “weak tie” to help you land your dream job). A professor once advised me to connect with people on LinkedIn only who I knew well enough that I would be comfortable introducing them to someone else. In the sprawl of friends-of-friends, that’s a tough line to maintain, but I think it’s a good standard. Unlike Rheingold’s approach of collecting contacts even beyond Dunbar’s rule of 150, I think we can embrace the age of networking without just ballooning our friends list or using others.

The Power of “The Long Tail”

Rheingold introduces the concept of the “long tail,” and Chris Anderson adds as the first rule of the long tail to make everything available. This assumes that both the “trash” and the “hits” maintain their individual value independently of each other. However, I think that making more available can actually detract from the value of the “hits” by making them harder to find and decreasing overall usability. Anderson hints at this in his third rule and with the example of MP3.com, but he comes at it from the angle of leveraging the hits that people like to filter and identify obscure music that they might also like.

I think this approach misses the heart of the issue. People don’t want to wade through the long tail — they want to jump right to the best. The current economic model of elevating the hits and ignoring the long tail serves as an initial filter to identify what people are most likely to want. Yes, there are casualties as high-quality things are undervalued and fall into obscurity because of outside factors, such as marketing and promotional money, instead of based on their own merit. However, limiting the number of options instead of making all available helps cut through potential choice paralysis. As in the famous jam experiment, people buy more when they have fewer options (Tugend). This returns to the idea that we discussed earlier this semester, where technical writers serve as mapmakers or navigators. Consumers are looking not just for everything possible, but for direction toward what is best. An overwhelming number of options can actually make it harder to find the greatest hits and detract from the overall experience.  

choice-paraylsis

Behavioural Econcomics. https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/behavioural-economics-ideas-that-you-can-use-in-ux-design

 

References:

Behavioural economics ideas that you can use in UX design. Retrieved from https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/behavioural-economics-ideas-that-you-can-use-in-ux-design

Community. (n.d.). Retrieved October 30, 2016, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/community

Morin, A. (2014, Sept. 11). How to network without feeling dirty. Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/amymorin/2014/09/11/how-to-network-without-feeling-dirty/#10341b202ca3

Tugend, A. (2010, Feb. 26). Too many choices: A problem that can paralyze. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/27/your-money/27shortcuts.html

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A Millennials Experience with LinkedIn

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LinkedIn is a powerful tool to help professionals connect and stay connected. But treating it as anything more than just another tool in a job seekers utility belt is a mistake. While it has all the bells, whistles, and name recognition, I find that people’s experiences and success with the site very greatly. Contrary to what they may claim, LinkedIn in not the golden ticket to your dream job. Rather than an automatic connection to top recruiters, it is a tool people can use to gain a competitive advantage in the workforce market. But is it really meant for everyone?

Be Your Own Biggest Cheerleader

It’s not enough to create a profile and hope that the right person stumbles upon it. You have to be an active proponent and really sell yourself. This means regularly updating your profile, posting relevant articles and content. But with two to three people joining per second, the network is louder and more crowded than ever before. It’s hard to have your voice heard when it easily can get lost in the chaos.

Who is LinkedIn for?

While it may be a good tool for more experienced individuals mid career, it is extremely difficult for younger generations, including myself to use to help start a career. A recent survey of 23 major social networks ranks LinkedIn as the “oldest” social network, with an average age of 44.2 years old (Tumblr, for example had an average age of 34.6 years). So, while 80 million Generation Y users log on to social media daily, only 23% of Millennials are using LinkedIn. Therefore it makes sense that the majority of the content posted is geared towards more experienced users.

While I may be smart enough to be among the 23% of millennials who do use it, the types of positions listed aren’t for someone in my situation. I found that I was generally was either overeducated or under qualified for the vast majority of the positions listed. While I still applied to positions that interested me, the “1-3” or “3-5” years of related experience many employers required were a major problem. How am I supposed to get my foot in the door if employers are requiring experience upfront? There was no good way to win and little incentive to continually engage in this site.

Unfortunately, this is a large problem across all types of industries. Despite having the drive and ambition, many young graduates simply can’t get a start in the field of their study. Employers want young talent with experience, but with today’s job market they are able to employ experienced professionals just as easily, making it easier for established professionals to move up the corporate ladder, not newbies who have little if any substantial professional experience.

Making New Connections

Making new connections sounds great, but it’s difficult to create new meaningful connections. While relationships certainly matter, it is hard for younger generations to make connections that are actually worthwhile. I could reconnect with my past co-workers from Culvers or my lifeguarding days, but how helpful will those connections really be? If I am trying to break into a certain industry, these are not the people I need to target. Rather, I need to connect with notable people in the company as well as recruiters. Simply adding Bill Gates on LinkedIn probably won’t help me get a job at Microsoft. Similarly, sending inbox messages or stalking recruiters will not help generate a lead. There is a fine line between extending your professional reach and seeming desperate.

A Different Animal

Perhaps LinkedIn is less of a true social network and more like a job board with social components. If younger generations are using Facebook more, why not try to turn the tables and revamp its strategy? If Facebook is the destination, why not transform it into something more? Or, why hasn’t LinkedIn paired with Facebook to become just that? Creating a Facebook app that feeds informed networking and job opportunities to people could be a valuable tool for users- especially younger generations. It could combine forces and become a super social network, improving its strength and recognition.

Conclusion

But, after all the smokes and mirrors you can find a platform than can be quite useful in the proper hands. With over 94% of recruiters using LinkedIn, it would be a waste to dismiss it entirely. It may not appear to be as beneficial in the short term, creating a profile has the potential to connect to others later down the line. While I believe LinkedIn’s greatest asset is its ability to help maintain and foster new professional relationships, this should be taken with a grain of salt. Building professional relationships can be exceedingly helpful, but at its core, these relationships already need to already be in place to be beneficial.

Additionally ways to get hired by using LinkedIn

Rich Maggiani’s article, “Using LinkedIn to Get Work,” provided a lot of great ideas on how to use LinkedIn to get a job in the technical communication industry. After talking to a couple of my technical communicator mentors, I wanted to add a few more suggestions to Maggiani’s article.

Showcase your work

If you have started a portfolio of the technical documents that you have created, get permission to post them online. Once you have that permission, add those documents to an area of your profile that makes the most sense. For example, I have created event flyers as well as work instructions. Because I want to focus on obtaining a job as a technical communicator in the medical field, in my Summary section (the very first section that you come to on my page), I have included a sample of the work instructions that I had created.

Additionally, in each section of my Experience area, I have included whatever appropriate document that best displayed my skills. Thus, not only can employers read about my skills and my experiences, they can also see my work samples too. This way, they can imagine what I can do for them to benefit their own company.

Now, do not forget that when you upload your document, it actually goes into a thing called “SlideShare,” which then gets posted into another public area as well. Be sure to use keywords in the description field, so that when someone searches for a particular document, your document can easily be found. Because of your document, you could be messaged to create a similar document for someone’s company.

Be humble by endorsing and recommending others

If you know people personally on LinkedIn, visit their profile page and click on the “Endorse” and “Recommend” links in the drop down arrow menu next to the “Send a message” button. You can endorse one of their skills, or you can recommend why that person is a wonderful employee/co-worker. Often times when you endorse or recommend someone, they will reciprocate the favor. By endorsing and recommending others, it shows that you are humble and a team player. When people endorse or recommend you, it shows others that there is proof to your claims about who you are and what your skills are. Employers do take these in to consideration when hiring.

Volunteer

I am surprised by how many people volunteer but do not put it on their resume or LinkedIn profile. Volunteering is great experience, no matter what it is. More over, many companies are always trying to show that they are apart of a community, so many companies will look for future-employees who have the same values of giving back to the community. As someone who has put together volunteering events for work, many people do not volunteer their time willingly or at all. Imagine a company trying to put on a charity event with very few employees helping out. That looks very poorly on the company and can possibly damage their reputation as a caring community supporter. So, if you volunteer, include that experience. If you have not volunteered yet, do it. Volunteering is fun and is a good networking experience.

Research the hiring manager

Of course, you will want to research the company that offered you a job, but to help get that job, you will want to ask who will be interviewing you. Once you find out who the hiring manager is, research them on LinkedIn to learn about them. Try to find things that you have in common and use that information to break the ice, or to somehow insert it into one of your answers to a question in the interview. The hiring manager will be impressed that you went to that much trouble to not only learn about the company, but about the people as well, and you will be more likely to receive a job offer. (I can state from experience, that this worked for me).

Conclusion

I hope that you found my four suggestions on how to further use LinkedIn to get a job helpful. I realized that showcasing your work, being humble by endorsing and recommending others, volunteering, researching the hiring manager are helpful in being hired. Hopefully, these suggestions will help you obtain a job too.

A Rheingold Application

linked in

 

LinkedIn.com

 The LinkedIn article by Maggiani and Marshall outlines a few ways to use the site to your benefit.  With over 300,000,000 profiles, it makes sense to utilize it for expanding your network or looking for new employment opportunities.  Although LinkedIn was associated with white collar users in its infancy, it is now being used by people from all economic and social classes.  A class on how to effectively use LinkedIn is even taught in Minnesota Workforce Centers around the state.  After thinking about the readings this semester, it struck me that LinkedIn may be a perfect place to put my new found Rheingold knowledge to use.

An article by Cheryl Connors in Forbes outlines a few interesting statistics LinkedIn has experienced in the last year:

1-41% of people now report 500+ connections, up from 30%in 2013

2-58% of people spend more than two hours a week on the site, up 10% from 2013

3-16% of people are in the maximum number or groups allowed (50)

4-Company page usage jumped from 24% to 57%

Full article: http://www.forbes.com/sites/cherylsnappconner/2014/05/04/new-research-2014-linkedin-user-trends-and-10-top-surprises/

Having just finished Rhenigold, I questioned how to use the knowledge that he presented.  Before I set out to topple a dictatorship, perhaps I should start with LinkedIn.  Although I have a LinkedIn profile, I only view it once every two weeks, don’t post updates, and am generally a lurker when my Facebook News Feed is stagnant.  When reading this article, there are definitely parallels from what Maggiani and Marshall have discussed and the concepts that Rheingold discussed.

Maggiani and Marshall: Connect with all STC colleagues and people you work with

Rheingold: Building a network

MM: Utilize 1st connections to connect with their 2nd and 3rd connections

R: Utilizing bridges to connect to other networks

MM: Updating your status often

R: Putting in the effort

MM: Ed helped steer connections away from a problem company

R: Adding value

Reading through the blogs, it seems most people would like to utilize the knowledge we have learned from Rheingold and some of us have even posed the question of where to start.  More than half the people I know would classify themselves as unemployed or underemployed.  Given that, it would seem that utilizing Rheingold’s concepts, while using LinkedIn, would be time well spent to experience some real world benefits.  It seems like a better place to start than over-throwing a government.

LinkedIn Culture and Community

Culture: “the ways in which people relate to each other within a particular social context – how their values, beliefs, assumptions, worldview, and so on are manifested through everyday actions and decisions.” Bernadette Longo – Where We Work (Spilka, 2010, pg 149)

Community: “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals:”  Oxford Dictionary

There are a number of different Social Media Communities and the way that people act within those communities is the culture that they participate in. I have Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. The way I act within each of these communities is different. Facebook is more personal, I let people know about my feelings and what is going on with my family life. Twitter I am still figuring out, but use it more to find out what is happening in the world and with celebrities than with my family/friends/co-workers. LinkedIn is more professional. I connect with coworkers and other professional contacts there. The image below is a good description of where you would want to post specific items about your day depending on who you want to see and who you want to have to discuss this with.

social_where_to_post

http://imonlinkedinnowwhat.com/2011/11/09/social-posting-where-to-post-what-you-are-doing/

While this does not have a very complementary view of  LinkedIn (Is it boring? LinkedIn). It does show seem to show that what people share on LinkedIn tends to be more professional. You are managing your brand on LinkedIn, you want to make sure that what is seen there is professional, and not a description of your wild Las Vegas vacation.

My LinkedIn community is comprised of coworkers and other business contacts. I am connected with a few friends and family, but for the most part it is all my business contacts. The June 2010 STC had an article about “Using LinkedIn to Get Work” This article had a section on Researching Companies that Interest You. This was related to researching companies that you may want to work for, but it could also work from a business perspective. The company could research the employees of a company they are considering doing business with. I could see this being used in my company a lot. We often times market to larger home care and EMS agencies. The could use LinkedIn to check out the resumes of the people who do currently work for us and for those that no longer do. This can give them an idea about how stable our workforce is and if there is a lot of turnover. If there is high turnover, it could imply that we are not a good company to work for and they could reconsider signing our agreement. In addition, we could do the same about companies that we may want to partner with to make our product better.

The culture of LinkedIn is unique. You connect with people and they are considered your 1st level connections. In addition, the connections of your connections are 2nd level. There is even 3rd level connections which are connected to your 2nd level connections at their 1st level (and they are not connected to you).

linkedincomic

http://seotopten.com/blog/2013/04/linkedin-joins-the-social-media-war-with-mentions/#.UncvCvlwqSp

The question is what to do with these connections. There are a number of things to do with these connections, including looking for a new job, promote yourself and research companies.

LinkedIn is a very powerful tool that I am still learning. I did some looking before I started writing this blog and found 40 new connections. I’m sure I’ll find more, but since I am not actively looking for a new job, I have yet to see all the possibilities of this site.

Users Taking Over the World

As I was reviewing our course syllabus after completing this week’s readings, the title of Unit 3 struck me: “Work and Play in a User-Generated World.” I started thinking about what a user-generated world is and realized that it’s exactly what our readings have been describing. A user-centric sphere in which users demand good customer service, quick response time, new forums to communicate with each other, and improved and more efficient searching is, most definitely, a user-generated world.

While product research and development has always been motivated by the product’s users/audience to some extent, it is clear that consumers have been empowered and their opinions and voices amplified as a result of the rise of social media and digital technology in general. Ann M. Blakeslee’s chapter, “Addressing Audiences in a Digital Age” in Spilka’s Digital Literacy for Technical Communication, addresses how the concept of the audience has changed, especially for technical communicators, since the dawn of the digital age.

According to Blakeslee, while it was once reasonably safe to assume that a print user manual would have a fairly narrow, well

defined audience limited to people who were likely familiar with industry jargon, such assumptions are no longer likely to be accurate. The internet has offered greatly increased accessibility to technical communication, and thus greatly expanded the potential audience for documentation. While Blakeslee acknowledges that it may be difficult for technical communicators to understand and define their now larger and more varied audiences for general documentation, she points out that it is easier to predict and understand the audience for particular types of documents such as instructional documents (2010, p. 201).

Just as digital technology has facilitated and expanded access to documentation, it is also (according to Qualman, Maggiani, and Marshall) revolutionizing the way we search for jobs. Social media allows for the rapid exchange of information- including information that helps both job seekers and recruiters. Qualman predicts that as with everything else on the web, middlemen will become less valuable and eventually be eliminated; job seekers will be matched with more appropriate jobs without the need for classified ads, job boards like Monster, or headhunters (2013, p. 178).

Qualman anticipates that LinkedIn will be a major player during and following the elimination of the middleman from the recruiting and job seeking processes (2013, p. 178). Therefore, he can see job searching and hiring becoming even more referral based than they were previously.

The article “Using LinkedIn to Get Work” by Rich Maggiani and Ed Marshall also voiced the idea that LinkedIn will become increasingly more important in hiring and job seeking. In addition to advising job seekers, the article also advises the currently employed on how to maintain their profiles in order to stay up to date with their networks and potential future employers. This advice includes frequently posting status updates and listing events attended.

I had no idea how much LinkedIn offered in terms of job searching prior to reading this article. I did not know how LinkedIn job postings work or that there are job tabs within groups. I was not surprised to hear that LinkedIn is an increasingly important recruiting tool, though, as my company is currently using LinkedIn for recruiting.

I was intrigued by the idea of constantly updating the LinkedIn profile with status updates and the like, but also a bit wary. I’ve always had the impression that being very active on LinkedIn in the way the article recommends implies that a person is looking for work or projects or is advertising their own services. In the case of someone who is happily employed, I could see this being a red flag for their current employer and triggering questions about whether the employee is looking to leave. Maybe though, employers will understand the benefits to them of their employees expanding their social networks, and this will not actually be a problem.

The genre of social media: Using LinkedIn as more than just an online resume

When you hear or read the word “genre,” you normally think of categories of literature or films – romance, science fiction, horror, drama, etc. Genre can be applied in a similar fashion to technical communications. In this setting, genre refers to a category of tools and resources used within the world of technical communications. For example, one genre might be paper-based communication tools such as letters, memos and reports. Another genre is digital-based tools such as emails, websites, and social media. We discussed in detail last week how information design and content management is changing from a paper genre to a digital genre.

This week, our readings put these changes into perspective when it comes to activity theory and human-computer interaction.  According to Longo (as originally stated by Kuutti), “Activity theory is a philosophical and cross-disciplinary framework for studying different forms of human practices as development processes, with both individual and social levels interlinked at the same time,” (p. 160). In this framework, “an activity contains a subject and object whose relationship is mediated by artifacts/tools to achieve an outcome” (p, 160). Refer to Figure 1 below which illustrates the basic structure of an activity.

Basic structure of an activity

Basic structure of an activity
Image source: Rott, L. (2013). Recreated from Kuutti, 1996.

To tie it all together, we looked at LinkedIn this week. LinkedIn is an example of a social media tool within the digital genre that shows us how the interaction between a person, materials and outcomes can occur through a computer-mediated interface.  In other words, LinkedIn is an online tool that is used to create a number of human interactions, using multiple tools, with various intended outcomes. These outcomes include:

1)      Staying connected to professional contacts

2)      Networking for future business opportunities

3)      Individual job searches

4)      Employer candidate searches

5)      Researching companies

Using the same chart as before, I filled in the specific areas (tool, subject, object, etc.) in reference specifically to LinkedIn and how interactions occur on this site. See Figure 2.

Image source: Rott, L. (2013). Adapted from Kuutti, 1996.

Basic structure of an activity – LinkedIn example
Image source: Rott, L. (2013). Adapted from Kuutti, 1996.

All of this makes me realize that the interactions and purpose behind social media is much more complex and intricate than I originally thought. When I first signed up for a LinkedIn account (it was just last year – yeah, I was a late adopter), I thought it would just be a nice way to reconnect with a number of past colleagues and perhaps connect with a few clients. And that it could act as an online resume. I really didn’t understand what all it had to offer until just recently. What happened recently? Well, first, I read the Maggiani and Marshall article a few weeks earlier than scheduled. Second, I received an email from LinkedIn (referenced in Figure 2 and embedded below) on ways to improve your profile.

 

Some of the things that I personally plan on incorporating into my profile are:

  • Posting regular updates on the industry I work in and concepts I am learning about in graduate school
  • Sharing information regarding events or conferences I attend, or even relevant books/research I’ve read or documentaries I’ve watched
  • Adding a list of specific coursework I have taken – the name of a degree can be a bit ambiguous so why not spell it out for a prospective employer?
  • Asking for references!

This last point is a heads up (warning?) to Professor Pignetti.  I may be asking you to write me a reference very soon for my LinkedIn page!

Week 10 | LinkedIn – Social Media for the Career Minded

How people shared their resumes before LinkedIn

Qualman, Chapter 10 could be entitled “All the Things Leftover that I Wanted in My Book, but Could Not Find Places for in Other Chapters, and I Really Want to Be Credited with Naming the Glass House Generation.” The subject matter in Chapter 10 jumped around. From being snarky and calling flight attendants exasperated stewardesses who don’t know what to do when their box lunches run out (p. 219) to stating that young people have declining oral communication skills without presenting substantial evidence that this is true—only an anecdote about two people who met in the virtual world of Second Life. The two had issues, but the story does not say whether the couple’s issues were due to a lack of communication skills.

The last part of the chapter was more cohesive. Qualman discussed social media’s role in job hunting. I agree that the middlemen of the job recruitment process will not go away. Online job boards and fairs will continue to help connect potential employees with employers. People also will still look to professional organization job boards and the employer itself, but career social media like LinkedIn is exclusive to helping employers and job seekers connect with each other. In the end, I believe that companies make the final hiring call during an interview, but LinkedIn is a great place to get a foot in the door and make a good first impression.

LinkedIn is useful for networking. LinkedIn helped me find contact information for my company’s database and Christmas card list. In a few weeks, my company will be sending our Christmas cards out to our clients. One of our clients left one organization for another. While the old and new organizations had not yet updated their websites, the client had updated her public LinkedIn profile. I was able to figure out where she was currently employed so we can send her a Christmas card.