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Liz Ryan on Using Facebook
After several years of experience working in the traditional corporate structure, Liz Ryan left that environment to begin her own human resources consulting practice. Ryan, who writes on employment and career topics for BusinessWeek Online and Yahoo!, among others, penned Happy About Online Networking: The Virtual-ly Simple Way to Build Professional Relationships. Here, she highlights several ways that Facebook can be a very valuable asset to the professional user.
How would you describe Facebook to a client who’s never used it?
It’s a site that allows you to create an online presence, to let others know about you and your goals. Although it was originally created for college students, Facebook is a very important star in the online professional networking constellation. Anyone who’s interested in online networking should not overlook it. Facebook has a very important position right between LinkedIn, which is business focused, and MySpace, which is social.
What are the greatest challenges associated with the first 30 days of using Facebook?
The good news is that Facebook is pretty intuitive. If you’ve been online at all, you’re not going to have a hard time starting a profile. Anyone who has a half hour or 45 minutes can create a profile. If there’s anything you don’t know how to do, it’s not too hard to find out how. I go the path of least resistance and ask my teenage kids.
What are the most important things people should include when starting a Facebook profile?
You want to include things that will attract other business professionals. So, if you’re using it for professional purposes, it’s going to look more like a résumé. A résumé can be so dry and formal. But in a Facebook profile, you can use photos, blogging, music, notes and color to describe who you are professionally.
Bottom line: don’t be afraid to try it. Go ahead and create a profile. You can change it at any point. Upload a picture that feels halfway between your most silly and your most stodgy and professional. Facebook is a friendly and open site, so you want a picture that reflects that. The key is not to do what a lot of people do: create a profile and never go back and do anything with it.
Do you have any tips for choosing the most appropriate applications for career advancement?
Most of the current Facebook applications are socially oriented. I have not seen anything that I could qualify as a business-oriented application, but the occupation-based Facebook groups that engage in active discussion can be an interesting way to meet other professional people in your sector. These discussions also let members develop relationships slowly.
What are the three most important things for users to remember beyond first 30 days?
1. Keep up with your correspondence. Just like with anything else, it’s important that you keep up with you Facebook messages. By creating a profile, you’ve created an additional inbox. People who come looking for you on Facebook deserve responses.
2. Keep up on your profile. You might be job hunting today, but three months from now, when you’ve been in your dream job a few weeks, your boss might be upset if he looks at your profile and finds that you’re “still job hunting.”
3. Look for your friends. Every month you’ll have more friends joining Facebook and you’ll want to get connected to them. To speed up the process, you can send Facebook invites or old-fashion emails to invite your friends to the site.
In what ways would you encourage a job seeker to use Facebook?
Job seekers of all ages should definitely use Facebook as an aid. Creating a profile is the first step. Think of it as the friendlier, warmer LinkedIn. Seventy percent of employers now check Facebook and MySpace for applicant profiles. While there’s no negative to an employer not finding you, why not take the opportunity to brand yourself? It may help them see more of what you bring to the table.
Would you say that it’s important for your clients to use all of the social networking sites? Why or why not?
I don’t think so. There are so many out there. But they should definitely use LinkedIn and Facebook. And some great online communities like Yahoo! Groups can be great networking tools. Choose one that relates to your interests and have at it. Jobseekers today have such an online burden, so the last thing I would say is to join all the online networking sites—that’s too much to keep up with.
Are there any needs of professional users that Facebook may have overlooked?
There’s not any prose on Facebook about its business uses. In terms of how you know people, there’s only one business related option: “We worked together.” But there are so many professional relationships. For instance, you could know someone from a professional interview at a company that you loved yet who’s offer you could not accept. Facebook does not have any language to specify that or any of the other professional ways that people can know each other.
How has Facebook changed the way people network professionally?
Using Facebook for professional networking is very new; and the jury is still out on how successful it is. It’s going to be hard for it to capture the ground that LinkedIn has already covered. But LinkedIn is so dry. Last week a woman asked the LinkedIn discussion page whether or not LinkedIn should allow members to add blogs to their profiles. As the debate grew, I was more and more surprised. I think that blogs would be a great addition to the site because they would allow professionals to easily discuss and share with others.
It’s a web 2.0 world and user-generated content is always going to prevail. And Facebook does a fantastic job with user-generated content. I haven’t been to my LinkedIn site in the last year, but I’m on Facebook pretty regularly.
What is the belief you personally go to during times of change?
I just keep in mind what’s really important. If you get overworked by stupid junk, you can loose all sense of focus and balance. I have kids; they’re healthy and so am I. If the important stuff is in good shape, so are you. You can’t worry about the other stuff.
The best thing about change is...
It brings you challenges that the universe wants you to have.
What’s the best change you have ever made?
I stopped seeing myself as my résumé. I used to walk around telling myself that people in this job do X. And I tried to act accordingly. When I left my larger corporate structure and went on my own, I stopped doing that. I dropped the notion that how we need to be in our jobs has already been decided by somebody else and we don’t have a say in it. I can do much more than you think my job title says I can.
For more information about Liz Ryan, visit www.asklizryan.com or www.asklizryan.blogspot.com.