Saturday, March 15, 2008

separating virtual wheat from chaff

As usual my head is abuzz with the social media explosion and the impact technology has on my world. While communication has always been a part of the technology, folks that barely own computers are becoming familiar with Linkedin, Facebook, myspace, and twitter. iphones are being advertised so deliciously on television ads that my lust can barely be contained, not to mention the tiniest of notebook computers making an appearance with the cutest of jingles. Sometimes I am not sure If what I am doing makes sense for my business. Sometimes I worry that I waste my time with my focus on all this geeky technology and social media web 2.0 stuff.

I am no expert, but as usual I know enough to be dangerous, and to be provide a lively conduit to my less technologically focused comrades. A less kind way of saying that is that I am obsessed with technology and communication but that I have people in my life who keep me from completely disappearing into the matrix. I love social connections technology provides, and I have for as long as I can remember. I went from devouring Asimov and Heinlein as a child and dreaming about connections within world to almost going broke networking coffeehouses with chat and email and online information in St. Louis prior to the web explosion.

One of the reasons I ventured out on my own in recruiting is that I could experiment with stuff like this and the stuff that is still being developed. I have had a lot of success with the social media in recruiting, and love the heck out of it. There is truly a dizzying amount of activity, and it promises to be a wild ride as we venture even more into interactivity and robust network applications. It can be a distraction, but I have found that as long as my online activities drive me back to the telephone (or my bottom line) I am okay. It is hard to focus and be that disciplined with all the fun, crazy stuff happening out there, but recruiting success (like most of life) really is about discipline and focus. I know I have to stay balanced, and a tool like twitter is very dangerous for us folks easily distracted by shiny bits, but it is also a way to find people, and that is what I do for a living. I guess it is always all about the results, and I should just let those decide if my geeky methods are helpful or harmful.

I believe that life is always enhanced by connection, which is partly why I love being a recruiter. And though I know that a lot of folks scoff at meaningful connections through a computer or a mobile device, for me it goes without saying that the lines between the virtual world and that of my own back yard are now so blurred as to be almost indistinguishable. I have had countless virtual world interactions that changed my life, made me money, or led me to find new friends or business contacts, so there is no debate on the value to me. The challenge for me lies in finding a balance. The dizzying real time feeds of email, tweets, chat and mobile blogging are as necessary to me as my morning cup of joe, but I have to work to find a way to stay grounded, centered and balanced in my approach, otherwise I might go crazy. So I am working on it. I think it is funny that I try to do 20 minutes of sitting meditation each morning, and then I go off to work, but it does seem to help me keep my balance.

Recruiting efficiently has a lot to do with doing effective research. That is why I think my methods might be interesting to people that are not just recruiters. Here is an example of how I use twitter. Think of it as a constant explosion of 140 character thoughts into space. Steams of consciousness from an unidentified number of consciousnesses. Random thoughts, pointers to pictures and articles and interviews and what someone had for dinner. Dizzying, right? You can follow people and see, in real-time, their streams on your screen. Entertaining, fun, pretty pointless though, right? Wrong.

Enter tweet scan, a real-time twitter search. For example, I will search for St. Louis tweets, and what do we find? An ever growing and surprisingly active list of folks using twitter here in my home town. Coolio! I am seeing denizens of the web that I never realized were there. But wait, what is that? Oh, a tweet from someone I might know, who knew that guy was on twitter. Man I need to get back in touch with that guy, uh, wait, holy cow. He is tweeting that he is hiring people, and is having problems. He needs me!

Uh, sorry guys, I gotta run, that right there there is some potential business popping it's head up, and as a rhino I need to charge right after it. But isn't it amazing how such a seemingly pointless tool can help you do what you need to do, or at least it can if you know how to use it.

Friday, March 14, 2008

its what you do with them that counts

I use Linkedin and other social networking tools like twitter a lot in my business. I have always found social media fascinating and like to watch as new things emerge.  Over the last few years Linkedin has become a tool I really value.  It helps me connect with some of the 100 million or so people that work in this country, and even folks all over the world. I like this tool, it has some magic in it. In fact, I more than like it - I may love it a little.

I make friends, associates, and money with Linkedin, and I have wracked my brain to learn the best ways to utilize it in my day, while working vigorously to grow my network.  Its crazy, but some people actually tell people to connect with me.  (Thanks, Dave!)

When Linkedin announced the new "corporate recruiting solution" it took me aback for a few minutes.  Corporate recruiters who partake can now have access to all 20+ million Linkedin members (members that are present in part because of promiscuous open networkers, of which I am am proud to count myself) without adding any contacts of their own.  Sort of a pay to play solution, which removes the necessity of putting networking skin in the game.  It almost felt like a betrayal to me, and I saw some other third-party brethren get really pissed off about it.  

But really, when you think about it, we never own our contacts, for crying out loud.  Listing them in Linkedin doesn't make them "ours" and would never prevent someone else from talking to them.  Our contacts are human beings with self determination and lives of their own.  Even if I had my list of contacts locked up in a drawer, it wouldn't prevent someone else from calling them. I was once asked if it made me uneasy being such an open networker because other people could call my contacts, and I answered, "If another recruiter had a great position for one of the thousands of people in my first-level connections then what kind of a networking contact would I be if I stood in their way?"  Bring it, baby.  The point is to help everyone be more successful, not try to keep all the success making stuff for ourselves.  Plus, as any veteran recruiter will tell you, it is not just having the names of people - the approach matters.   

I use the same reasoning when I share knowledge with people instead of hoarding it - information wants to be free, and flow to as many people as possible.  Learning and innovation can only happen an environment where sharing happens, and the more I teach people my "special tricks" the more I keep on learning.  Sometimes I have to remind myself of that.

So welcome to the family, paying corporate recruiters.  C'mon in, the networking is fine!  I wish you well and if I can assist you in any way, please don't hesitate to call.

....and hey, if you need any outside help on leadership or high impact positions in Technology Human Resources, or Operations, well, you'll know how to find me, I am probably in your network.