Social Media Reflections: The Good and the Bad

May 7, 2008
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

In trying to summarize my experience at the Web 2.0 conference, I find myself thinking about how quickly technology changes the way we work, play, and in general live our lives. I’m 29 years old, and I can remember my first Atari, first Commodore 64 computer (later upgraded to a 128), my first PC, the first time I logged onto AOL (and racked up a couple of $400 bills when they still charged by the minute!), and my first cell phone (a big clunky plastic analog thing). I remember the first time I discovered chat through BBS systems, the first time I went on a date with someone I’d met online (this was way before it became socially acceptable to do so!), and the first time I sent a text message.

In reflecting back on all this stuff, I started trying to recall what I did before I had these technologies available to me. I’m sure this is a question that many of you have asked yourselves as well, especially those of you in the ‘Baby Boomer’ generation, who can remember back way further than I ever could.

Seriously, how did we survive? What did we do for entertainment? Has technology really dumbed us down so much that we literally cannot find each other in a crowd without calling or texting our locations? Are we losing the ability to communicate face to face with each other because technology has allowed us the luxury of communicating through non-verbal and impersonal means?

A problem that arises with all these new social media technologies is that our interpersonal communication skills seem to be suffering in part due to them. In particular, recent college graduates are having a difficult time in the workforce due to their lack of communication skills. In a study done by The Conference Board back in 2006, it was found that “for graduates of four-year colleges, at least one in five employers found the recent graduates deficient in written in communications, writing in English and leadership.”

In 2008 the National Association of Colleges and Employers put an article out through JobWeb as a reference piece for the class of 2008. Within the article, they too discussed the issue of the lack of communication skills:

“Unfortunately-and ironically-the very qualities employers look for are the qualities they find lacking in many new graduates. More than a third of employers say new graduates lack face-to-face communication skills. They say many students tend to lack interview and presentation skills, telephone skills, and overall interpersonal (gets along well with others) skills.”

So with all of these hindrances that have resulted from the fabulous technology like that shown at the Web 2.0 Expo, how do we, in the business of recruiting, embrace it without letting it consume us? I think this question is best asked first of researchers and sourcers, since we are more likely to be the people who could get caught up in over-use. However, I think lots of folks in our industry are also in danger of “poo-pooing” every new thing that comes along simply because it’s new. As professionals in the recruiting industry, how do we not go from one extreme to the other and find a happy medium?

Be willing to try things out and find what works best for you. While other people may embrace certain tools, they may not provide value for your company. Find your own personal balance, and remember that your balance will be different from everyone else’s. Those of us who are researchers and sourcers are by nature going to embrace more of these tools and have a deeper interest in understanding them. Don’t fight it! If you are deeply interested in the technology, learn about it and apply what you learn to your job.

At the same time, don’t ignore new tools simply because you don’t understand them or don’t think they’ll add any immediate benefit to your work. Just because you never heard of it doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile.

My experience helped to broaden my own knowledge base of what is available to me. Will I use everything I experienced? Nope! But I’m sure there will be plenty of opportunities at Waggener for me to use a lot of it. And because of that, I’m excited to be back to work and to be able to share what I learned with our staffing team and see how it will help us along the path to excellence in corporate recruiting.

Finally, it’s appropriate for me to thank Dave Manaster of ERE Media for giving me the opportunity to experience the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco last week. In chatting with him this week, he paid me a great compliment by saying that he was very comfortable offering me this chance because he knew I would do a good job, and he knew he could trust me. Also — my Waggener Edstrom coworkers, who went a few days without me while I was conferencing, were incredibly supportive of this opportunity and encouraged me to attend. Working with people who understand the value of learning about this technology is a blessing for me, and I’m so pleased to be part of such an awesome team at Waggener.

With that, I will leave you with a picture slideshow of some of the conference experiences, as well as a great video I was able to capture once the conference was over. I hope many of you will consider attending one of the three remaining Web 2.0 Expos this year, or the Expo in San Francisco in 2009.

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.