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Careers: Crossing the Line to Evangelism

There’s a thin line between mavens and evangelists. We trust mavens to recommend movies, restaurants or even dry cleaners. We fear incurring the wrath of evangelists who contend that it’s a huge mistake (or worse) not to drive a Volkswagen, buy an iPhone or skip reading The Kite Runner. (It’s on my list of things to do, really.)

There’s a thin line between mavens and evangelists.

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We trust mavens to recommend movies, restaurants or even dry cleaners. We fear incurring the wrath of evangelists who contend that it’s a huge mistake (or worse) not to drive a Volkswagen, buy an iPhone or skip reading The Kite Runner. (It’s on my list of things to do, really.)

Perhaps we’re just a little wary of evangelists (and I don’t mean the religious kind). A case in point: hard-selling corporate recruiters. I can empathize with them, though, because not all jobs or companies are an easy sale.

Mavens tend to feel strongly, even passionately that their advice is ideal for their friends, readers or acquaintances. Speaking as a maven and connector, I can tell you that it’s pretty hard to switch it off. When a friend asks: “Seen any good movies?” We’re not the types who reply, “Who has time?”

The funny thing about discussing social networking is it, like politics, can knock me off the comfortable perch of mavendom onto the outer limb occupied by fire-breathing evangelists. I would never say social networking is for everyone, nor would I say it is always the preferred method of networking, but it’s a topic that gets my juices flowing more than say O.J., Britney or college football.

When New York Times’ columnist David Pogue asked readers to respond to his provocative blog post called LinkedIn … Why? I had to stifle myself from investing a few hours composing a reply.

I commented back to Pogue: “If you need (or simply want) to meet new contacts/experts, make new friends, establish a sense of community or want to establish a venue for others (not just your friends) to contact you, it’s hard to beat social-networking sites.”

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In retrospect, that reply sounds too mavenesque, and doesn’t reflect my true feelings.

Of course, I wasn’t alone; there were nearly 100 replies to Pogue’s post. Scott Allen, who writes a blog called Linked Intelligence and also a column for Fast Company, clearly is a true believer: ‘LinkedIn’s core value proposition is simply this: the ability to answer the question, ‘Who do I know who knows and can recommend somebody that … works at XYZ company? …is an expert in widgets? … Is a good lawyer specializing in whatever my problem is?’ … It’s like being able to search not only your own contact database, but those of your friends, and their friends, and then ask for the introduction when you find the right person.”

Although Pogue doesn’t think about social networks as a career advancement utility, that’s precisely the way recruiters harvest social networking sites. And that’s why savvy job searchers should use them too. You can quickly learn to advance your career by building and maintaining professional relationships on sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Xing and Doostang among others.

At the risk of sounding like an evangelist, your career advancement isn’t based solely on what you know, it’s also who you know, and social networking sites make it easier to meet the right people and manage professional relationships. As I said, they’re not for everyone; for example, some people prefer to wait for a school reunion to work their alumni network. And there’s always a fallback: you can call a maven & connector who knows the guy you need to know.

Rusty Weston, My Global Career • San Francisco, Ca • http://www.myglobalcareer.com