Social media has changed the scale of our communications in business. But, really, it hasn’t fundamentally changed the way we need to communicate with each other. Sure, there’s personal brand building and info sharing and cross-platform communication, but at heart, we still need to be able to build rapport and relationships with people if we hope to build careers and businesses.
What’s interesting is, everybody seems to know that and yet a large number of people still don’t take advantage of platforms like LinkedIn as a way to advance their careers. Mitch Federman, who runs the Newtown Networking Group, says the holdup largely has to do with the intimidation factor.
“It’s frightening,” Federman says of LinkedIn. “People say, ‘I don’t know what to do with it.’”
Federman is centering his post-career life on helping jobseekers address that very dilemma. He will offer several insights when he addresses the Career Support Group at St. Gregory the Great on Saturday, May 20, at 8:30 a.m., at the church on Nottingham Way in Hamilton. “Social Media Secrets for Job Search” is free to attend. Visit www.careersupportgroup.org.
Federman grew up on Long Island, where his mother wrote for a local newspaper and his father ran a paperhanging business during the construction boom following World War II. He says he got the best of both of his parents, a writer’s perspective from his mother and the old-school hard-work ethic from his father.
He moved to the Boston area, earning his bachelor’s in corporate strategy and management from Bentley University in 1976 and then his MBA from Babson in 1978. He began his career in sales of systems and software, eventually getting into sales of semiconductors to major brands like Intel.
Intel asked Federman to help automate a cell in one of their factories. Soon that led to automating the whole factory, then to all of Intel’s factories. His framework, he says, spread around other companies. His career continued in Boston until a digital printing company he worked for went under.
“I couldn’t find a job up there to save my life,” he says.
He moved to Baltimore for work, and later to Philadelphia, until finally he was 63 years old and found himself out of work, like so many people when the economy tanked in 2009. Tech companies were flushing middle-management ranks by then and Federman says he suddenly had no idea what to do.
He certainly didn’t know how to deal with social media. But he gathered with some also-out-of-work friends to start a small network that shared job leads. What would eventually become the Newtown Networking Group started with a few people and some trips to Newton Presbyterian Church, which held networking meetings. It also started after Federman attended some meetings by My Career Transitions, a Philadelphia-based networking group that he says opened his eyes to the possibilities that lay in social media — networking, personal branding, targeted searching, and so on.
Since 2009, Federman says, the group has grown to nearly 400 members, but the growth has slowed recently. Turns out, it’s for the right reasons: more than 230 of those members have found work through the group and its free course, which runs between September and June and teaches how to use LinkedIn to find new work.
It’s all about relationships. “You’re not going to get a job by talking,” Federman says. Not just once, anyway. Finding a new job or career is about building relationships, not just chatting with someone at a networking mixer.
To be fair, Federman is not down on networking meetings, obviously. Networking, he says, takes up about 60 percent of the job search process. He just feels it’s shortsighted to limit yourself to only pressing palms at mixers.
The formula for networking success these days must include social media, and in particular, LinkedIn, he says. LinkedIn offers tremendous insight into what professionals like, what positions they hold, and what groups they belong to. Staying up with these groups, getting involved in them, talking among them, and building your rapport with members of them is the best way to build real relationships and establish yourself as someone who knows how to solve problems. Speaking of which:
Lose the manual from 1982. Back before the Internet, finding jobs heavily relied on classified ads, snail mail, and paper resumes listing job titles and years of experience. That dynamic, Federman says, still clings to people. They see online job board postings and file a digital resume, but those get swallowed wholesale by digital filters that search for keywords. If your resume doesn’t have particular keywords, you’re dumped, regardless how much experience you have or how many problems you’ve solved.
That last one, about solutions to problems, is the heart of why Federman says it’s important to build actual relationships with people. When you get to know someone personally, you get to tell them all the solutions to all the problems you helped with, and that’s important, he says, because nobody cares how long you were at a job. They care how someone can help them fix something.
Setting yourself apart. Part of the intimidation factor, Federman says, is that people realize LinkedIn has half a billion users. So how do you separate yourself? How, in other words, do you build that personal brand that makes hiring managers think of you first?
Those groups are a good start. LinkedIn has thousands of groups an subgroups across all industries and fields. Start by joining the ones most pertinent to what you want, Federman says, and start talking to people. Share your ideas, comment and ask questions, state some opinions. Learn to cross-promote yourself between the live version at mixers and the digital version online. And learn who holds what position at the kind of company you want to work for. Start conversing and build a relationship.
It takes time, effort, and patience, of course. But look at it this way: if you’re out of work, time is the one commodity you have plenty of. So Federman’s advice is to use it wisely.