Social Media: Friend or Foe?

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Transcript

Mac Prichard:

Hi. This is Mac, from Mac’s List. Before we start the show, I want to let you know about my new book, Land Your Dream Job Anywhere. I’ve been helping job seekers find meaningful, well-paying work since 2001, and now I put all my best advice into one, easy to use guide. My book shows you how to make your resume stand out in a stack of applications, how you can find the hidden jobs that never get posted, and what you need to do to ace your next job interview. Get the first chapter now for free. Visit macslist.org/anywhere.

Ben Forstag:

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, get the career you want, and make a difference in life. I’m Ben Forstag, managing director of Mac’s List, and I’m here with Mac Prichard, founder and publisher of Mac’s List, and Jenna Forstrom, our community manager. On this bonus episode of Find Your Dream Job, we’re reacting to an opinion piece recently published in the New York Times. This piece is called, ‘Quit Social Media – Your Career May Depend On It,’ published November 19, 2016, by Cal Newport. If you’ve listened to this show in the past, you know that we’re big proponents of using social media as part of your job hunt.

Mr. Newport, however, is a skeptic of social media. He freely admits that he has never had a social media account. He argues that social media can actively hurt your career.

His argument is based around three basic presumptions, and I thought the team here would react to each one of those in turn. The first argument he makes is that you don’t need to use social media to find interesting opportunities because interesting opportunities and useful connections are not as scarce as people claim they are. Mac, would you like to react to that?

Mac Prichard:

I think there are many opportunities out there; the challenge, when we’re looking for work or projects, if we’re a freelancer, is uncovering them because sometimes the best jobs or projects are hiding in plain sight. The way to find them is through relationships and connections with others. Social media is one way to build those relationships and continue them, but it’s not the only way. I think there are opportunities. Your challenge is how are you going to find them and what tools can you use to do that. Social media is one tool.

Jenna Forstrom:

Yeah, I also don’t agree with this, but maybe because I come from digital marketing where my job exists solely based on social media for the most part, but I do think if you are … I can see where he would think that you don’t need social media if he’s an engineer and he’s got a stable job. I’m sure he goes to professional networking events within his industry, but I think if you’re relocating because of a job, or if you’re in any sort of digital marketing position, knowing what’s happening in the realm of social media is a way to gain followers, or share an opinion, or interact with your peers. My peers would be on Twitter, and Facebook, and LinkedIn, so I need to be on Twitter, and Facebook, and LinkedIn to engage with them.

Ben Forstag:  

One of the points he makes to justify this is this argument that the more valuable you are in the marketplace, the more good things will find you. He says, “The more I’ve practiced my skill and gotten good at my skill, opportunities just come to me.” I think that is certainly true for people who’ve kind of already made it, but if you’re struggling to transition into a new field, or you’re just out of college, you don’t have that experience or that background for people to come and find you so I think social media is really important to actually create this brand around yourself so people do find you. Opportunities don’t just come out of nowhere.

The second argument he makes is that he’s really against this idea that using social media is harmless. A lot of proponents of social media say, “Why not? It doesn’t hurt anything to go out there and build an online brand around yourself.” He says, “That’s not true. It takes away time and energy from other things you’re doing and you spend more time promoting yourself than actually doing the work that’s going to get you well known.” Mac, thoughts?

Mac Prichard:

Well, I think you need to use social media strategically and you need to invest your time in activities and work that’s going to produce the most results possible. I certainly see people use social media badly. They think that success is getting a certain number of followers with whom they never engage, they never build a relationship, the don’t really have any serious connection. That is not a good use of your time, so you should use social media to engage with your community, and serve others, and you should be thoughtful and strategic about it. If you’re not, certainly it’s like any activity in life. It’s not going to produce good results and it’s not a good use of your time. The channel isn’t the problem here; it’s the strategy that you use and being clear about the results you want. Whether you’re doing it through social media, or publishing papers in academia, or doing work in the community, you’ve got to have a goal in mind, and a strategy to achieve it, and a way of measuring your results.

Jenna Forstrom: 

I kind of agree with him on this one.

Ben Forstag: 

Alright…

Jenna Forstrom: 

I do think social media does a lot of harm. We talk about there’s like, people live, they only share the good in their life on Facebook. You’re not going to share that you’re going through a breakup or that you’ve lost your job … Not a lot of people share that they’ve lost their job, but they only share very happy moments. I think it feeds into this American culture of everyone’s life is perfect, and so when you’re not having a perfect life, if you’re unemployed, or just in a season of depression, it can just, I feel like it maximizes that sense of everyone’s happy and I’m not, and so something’s wrong with me when everyone has good days and bad days and you just only share your good days. I think that there are these opportunities where you can come out and use social media for good.

My Instagram channel, I can do a selfie one day and then the next day I’m talking about collecting donations for the new women’s shelter that opened up in Portland, but it’s like yeah, my life’s really good. I’m doing a home improvement project. I’m really proud of it, but I’m also really proud of the work that the community is doing to support these women getting out of, transitioning out of homelessness. You’ve got to balance it out and I think spending 20 minutes on a photo, and making the perfect filter, and editing it is a little too much time with one thing or another.

Mac Prichard: 

Let me add though, I’m a big sci-fi fan, Jenna, and the dark version of what you just described can be found on a wonderful show on Netflix right now, called Black Mirror.

Jenna Forstrom:   

I haven’t seen that yet, but I’ve heard people talk about it.

Mac Prichard:  

There’s an episode called “Nose Dive” and it’s set in the near future in a world where people rate each other on every encounter on a scale of one to five as if you were taking an Uber drive. The whole culture revolves around that and I think the title of the show, ‘Nose Dive,’ tells you what’s going to happen during the course of the episode. It’s very well done.

Jenna Forstrom:

Interesting.

Ben Forstag:

Let me take the middle ground between the “nose dive” and the “social media is great” positions; I think we’re both kind of talking around the same argument here which is, I think, [everything] in moderation right? You can always waste time doing just about anything in this world and if done poorly, social media can be a giant time-suck. I think part of the challenge of using social media, and part of the benefit of it, is that it allows you to frame and brand yourself in a way that lets the best parts of you, as a professional, come out. To some extent, you have to play that game of “here are my strengths that I’m just going to emphasize out to the world” and some of your professional weaknesses are things that you’re not going to be talking about on social media. At the end of the day though, there needs to be some substance there behind the social media brand. You can’t present yourself as a subject matter expert and not know anything about the topic.

Jenna Forstrom: 

Right.

Ben Forstag: 

His third contention with social media here, is that it is essentially a passive approach to professional advancement and looking for jobs. It diverts your time and attention away from producing work that matters and toward convincing people and the world that you matter. I think we kind of hit this in the last one, but Mac, do you have any thoughts about this point?

Mac Prichard:

Well again, social media is a set of channels that allow you to publish the work you create and share it with others in order to demonstrate what you can accomplish, but also to build relationships with people. If all you’re doing is re-tweeting people’s’ stuff or just broadcasting about yourself, you’re not doing it right. Lots of people make those mistakes, but if you’re creating good work, social media lets you get it out in front of people and that, I think, will lead to … It will lead to more opportunities.

Ben Forstag: 

Thanks guys. I encourage all of our listeners to check this article out because it is an interesting perspective on social media. It’s called, ‘Quit Social Media – Your Career May Depend On It,’ published in the New York Times, November 19th, and we’ll have a link in the show notes. In summary, if I can just wrap up what we’re all saying here, I think our gist is: social media’s okay when done in moderation, when done responsibly, when there’s some substance behind the social media brand you’re creating around yourself, and can be useful when you’re using it as part of a larger suite of job search tools, including networking, looking for jobs online, doing all the other things that we talk about.

Jenna Forstrom:  

Yeah.

Ben Forstag:

Good. Thanks guys.

Mac Prichard:

Thanks Ben.

In this bonus episode of Find Your Dream Job, the Mac’s List team reacts to a recent New York Times opinion piece, Quit Social Media. Your Career May Depend on It, written by Cal Newport.

Newport, who acknowledges that he’s never had a social media account, argues that tools like Facebook and LinkedIn can hurt your career. He bases his argument on three general ideas.

  1. Interesting opportunities and useful connections are not scarce. Therefore, social media is not needed to find them.
  2. Social media is not harmless–it takes time and energy away from other things you should be doing
  3. Social media is a passive approach to professional advancement

The Mac’s List team responds to each of these points and try to find some practical guidelines for optimizing your use of social media.