The inspiration for this blog post comes from someone I consider to be a true thought leader in social media, someone who I had a chance to finally meet in person recently: Jeremiah Owyang. He wrote a blog post back in 2008 entitled “Stop Fondling the Hammer, and Focus on the House,” and I didn’t even read this obscure post until my friend who has taught me a great deal about social media, Roderick (@Fogfish), recently mentioned in a Twitter Direct Message that he “was fondling the hammer too much” and followed that with a link to Jeremiah’s blog post.
At first, when reading the article, I was confused as to the correlation between Jeremiah’s blog post and @Fogfish’s comment. But then it hit me: a lot of the job seekers in transition that I meet at networking events, just like a lot of people in web marketing that Jeremiah is referring to, are infatuated by the latest tools in social media. Instead of building the house, or using these tools to help themselves find a job, they instead concentrate on learning more about the tools themselves. And I fear that in doing so, they sometimes forget why they are using the tools in the first place.
Don’t get me wrong: I continue to blog and evangelize that job seekers should be leveraging and maximizing their use of social media tools, including but not limited to LinkedIn. But the fact of the matter is that I see some people spending so much time in learning, reading about, and talking about the tools themselves that I wonder if they are better spending their time more effectively in other ways.
Let me give you an example. Being a sales professional, there are many classic sales books that a lot of my colleagues and myself read. But we don’t spend hours talking about these books with each other when we meet, reading blog posts about these books, and joining multiple free webinars week after week to learn the latest secret revelations about these books. What do we do? We read these books, internalize their teachings, figure out what tools will help us sell more, implement these new ideas as part of our sales techniques moving forward, and then move on. And I wonder whether or not professionals in transition should be doing the same with social media: Make your LinkedIn Profile, establish your connections, make your recommendations, and move on to using LinkedIn to actually help you find and/or network your way to your next job.
I breathe, eat, drink, blog, tweet, write, and dream about social media everyday. But that is my job. I provide social media consulting services. Unless you are getting paid for your expertise, you need to consider creating your own “social media boundaries.”
I mentioned at the beginning of the year that we all need to start creating boundaries for our usage of social media because it is very easy to waste a lot of time using these sites. And because of the complexity of some of these social networking sites, combined with the fact that they are social (and sometimes fun!), it’s easy to see how we can spend a lot of time engaging with them and the people using them. And guess what? Anyone in transition will tell you that they can be busier now looking for a job than they were when they were full-time employees! That is why establishing and maintaining a schedule or time budget is all the more important.
I have created a simple 3-step plan to help you create your own social media boundaries, including more details on how I would spend time on LinkedIn as an example:
1) Determine how long you will spend on each site and stick to your plan. If it is so important to your job searching activities that you want to devote 1 to 2 hours a day to it that is fine. But anything over 2 hours and you are investing more than 25% of your work time into social media, so beware. At the same time, you should be confirming how many hours a week you want to spend actually meeting people, which I hope is the same if not higher than your time spent in social media!
2) Now, for each social media site, determine a game plan for what you will do on it daily, weekly, and/or monthly. For instance, a LinkedIn plan could look something like this: (obviously you can and will use LinkedIn for more than this, but this is an example of a time-efficient routine I would generally recommend)
- (Daily) – view Network Updates and communicate where appropriate, check LinkedIn Jobs [you could do LinkedIn Jobs searches on a weekly basis as well]
- (Weekly) – read relevant Groups Updates and News, browse the latest questions on the Answers board in which you have expertise, search the Events for relevant networking meetings
- (Monthly) – update your LinkedIn Profile (if applicable), review your LinkedIn Profile Optimization (LIPO) keywords, send out invites to new contacts you have met over the past month
3) Spending some of your time in keeping up-to-date on how you can use social media for your job search is no problem. But make sure you budget this time as well and try to stick to this plan. If you spend a mere 4 hours a week attending webinars and reading blog posts to learn more about the social media tools, that is 10% of your time in a 40-hour workweek. Pick the % you want to invest in your education and stick to it.
On a final note, when I first started writing my LinkedIn book, I devoted the first few chapters to teaching about social networking as well as helping my readers understand what LinkedIn was about in this perspective. I followed that by helping my readers craft their own objective for using LinkedIn. I wrote my book in that way because so many would just ask me, “How do I use LinkedIn?” to which I would always answer back, “What is your objective?” If you don’t have an objective for using social media tools, you shouldn’t be wasting your time. In the same light, if you forget your objective and do not strategize your time on social media sites like LinkedIn, I fear that it may negatively affect the time you could be spending more wisely.
So, for job seekers in transition, my best advice to you is…stop fondling the hammer and start building your future house!