In an online world where we must constantly be on guard against spammers, tricksters and thieves we arrive at a dilemma: When our needs are great enough to require a greater than normal amount of openness there must be some rules to follow that will tell us where to find trusted agents for advice. Life altering events such as serious health challenges or a job loss leave us vulnerable to unwanted intrusion if we let our guard down. If there is ever a time that we need to pull out all the stops in reaching out to others it is when we don’t intuitively know where to turn next. Depending on the criticality of the problem, sometimes the “professional only” label should be clearly displayed. Social media allows for aggregation of professional advice if we know when and where it is appropriate.
Paid Professional Advice – Job seekers should first always seriously consider seeking advice from professionals. This may not become the first course of action because it could be overkill for the problem, but you will never evaluate this as a possibility if you never consider it. Taking the medical analogy as a model, for severe chest pains you would not consider polling friends and colleagues about the right answer, but for sniffles you visit a pharmacy for over-the-counter treatment. In periods of economic downturn and lengthy periods of unemployment, do-it-yourself methods of resume preparation, tactical planning, and interview practice may not be the best solution. Before hiring a career counselor to help with the search, check the credentials, background and references of several professionals and choose the one that best suits your needs… and pocketbook.
Crowdsourcing – Soliciting needed information and advice from a large group of people, especially from social media and other online resources, has become a standard practice. The job search communities on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn usually contain a mix of seekers and helpers rolled together in a medium of almost instant dialog with feedback. There are a number of recruiters and professional career coaches involved in these activities for no fee, but there can sometimes be a wide range of complex answers to simple questions. Again, consider the source. Time spent in the trenches speaks volumes about the value of the contribution by some experts, but the wannabes are just as willing to give advice. Set crap phasers on “stun” before entering.
Collaborative Intelligence – Social media outlets have also become depositories of knowledge which make information readily available to participants. This exchange of ideas between users takes many forms, but often wiki exchanges in data aggregation sites. Collaboration requires that users make data deposits as well as withdrawals. Questions are answered by the collective knowledge of the group in a brainstorming fashion where ideas are allowed to flow freely. These activities may be public or private (or optional, such as Tumblr), but there is a usefulness to participating in online support groups that are made up of people with similar outlooks and problems.
A question came up recently on a Twitter job seeker chat that was very probing and personal: Is a recruiter a good advisor on writing a resume? Since I have seen absolutely horrible resumes written by recruiters, my answer was “probably not,” but there is significant value that comes from their personal perspectives on the recruiting process. No two individuals see any problem in the same light, so listening to all advice and making personal decisions about relevance is important. Conflicting advice often means that there is no best solution. After all, the only person that needs to decide what advice is real is the actual job seeker who should always be in control of their search.