As most of the people who will read this already know, I work as a project manager for a real estate software company. In the current U.S. recession-enhanced economy, this is very close to working as a piranha feeder for a boss who keeps shortening the handle on the chum shovel each week. As the real estate market continues to worsen, the expectations for what any particular piece of software will do for an MLS board and it's agents expands dramatically, and inversely the expectation of how much these wonders should cost drops catastrophically. As you can imagine, I tend to have trouble sleeping....
Recently I've read several articles suggesting that one of the first steps in recession-proofing your career is to work on your networking. This make a lot of sense to me, as all of the decent jobs I've ever gotten have been through word of mouth, so last weekend I spent time researching and implementing accounts on what I believe are the four major social networking services. Here is what I have found after a week:
- I completed a MySpace page first, but after a week I honestly still don't have any idea what to do with it now. I already have a Blogger account that I'm attempting to keep updated, so the rather awkward MySpace blog tools are redundant. The social networking tools are nearly non-existent, and there seems to be very little interactivity other than a globally shared meta-game of "how many friends can you get". Considering what I am looking for, it just doesn't seem to be a good match. I'll probably leave the MySpace page up and check in on it randomly from time to time, but otherwise it's a dead end for me. (Also, the fact that someone else beat me to the "samthegiant" MySpace URL is annoying. Oh well, that's what I get for waiting so long to try it out.)
- I really like Twitter. It's micro-blogging boiled down to it's absolute core functionality. Unfortunately, I have two problems with Twitter's minimalism. First, no one I know is on Twitter. Second, the 140 character limit and global broadcast nature of the updates make it unlikely to be useful for the kind of "Hey, I've been laid off, have you got any good leads" kind of networking I am looking for. I'll try and check my Twitter account often enough to keep it active, but otherwise, it just isn't what I'm looking for right now.
- LinkedIn is exactly what I started my search to find. It's professionally oriented, has a fantastic method for making contacts based on what companies you've worked for, and it has what I find to be a much better shared meta-game of writing and requesting "Recommendations". LinkedIn also has a personal bonus for me in that it's an acceptable use of free time at my workplace. (Not that I have much....) I believe LinkedIn is the perfect match for anyone intending on improving their professional networking.
- Facebook was the surprise find of my experiments this week. I had honestly just avoided all the social networking sites up to this point as being, in my mind, targeted at a much younger audience. I had visions of a target demographic of cell-phone texting tweens and embarrassing party-picture-posting college kids. If that was ever true, I have apparently skipped past that phase because Facebook strikes me as all-grown-up. The application itself is a relatively uncluttered and straight-forward way to keep up with your online social circle. It offers a multitude of options, but the core functionality surprised me by reminding me strongly of the BBS systems that I fell in love with when I first started playing with computers in the '80s. I hadn't been looking for something else to do with my scant free time, but I found one anyway. Of all four services I have worked on this week, I have spent more time and enjoyed myself much more on Facebook.
- As a bonus item I think that anyone who finds this post at all interesting should take a look at Digsby. I've been a long time fan of Trillian for my multi-protocol IM client, but over the last week I've found Digsby to be much more polished and ascetically pleasing. In addition Digsby offers the killer app of integrating all of the four social networking sites I've tried this week seamlessly into the IM interface. I found Digsby an amazingly easy way to provide and keep track of updates.