Networking has always been preached as one of the keys to success in the job world. “It’s all about who you know” is a quote that seems relevant to many job industries. One would think that Generation Y (a term used to describe people born approximately in the years 1980 to 2000) would be almost naturally experienced in networking from being raised through the Myspace and most recently Facebook growth stages, however there still remains a gap between social and professional networking.
LinkedIn, easily the largest and most relevant professional networking website, is still largely unused by college students. College connections, whether they be fellow students, professors, or professionals met via internships, are perhaps the best opportunities out there for current students and recent graduates. Many connections will be forgotten or weakened, though, all because youth are not keeping in contact, even in the slightest manner.
Facebook is the bee’s knees and has been in recent years. People love to use Facebook for keeping in touch with friends, gathering people for events, and sharing pictures, however it just is not the place for professional networking. There is a gap that keeps Facebook from the professional networking realm, and that is absolutely ok. Facebook’s role as an outlet for venting frustrations and posting pictures from that wild weekend you spent drunk down the shore is not going to go anywhere. In a way, that’s Facebook.
That’s where the gap lies, however. Even if you do not participate in those wild weekends, there will always be that stigma with Facebook. Companies are not going to be using Facebook for anything good in their hiring processes. Facebook connects us as friends, but not as professionals.
LinkedIn is on the professional side of the networking spectrum. With LinkedIn, networks are built not only through first person connections, but from extended networks. This is where LinkedIn becomes forever valuable. According to the 2011 Source of Hires Report, a report done by CareerXroads, referrals are the largest source of external hires. More than a quarter of external hires are from referrals, making them more important and valuable than any sort of popular job site. Referrals can often help you circumvent an application process and get right to an interview. Most recent graduates are relying on websites like CareerBuilder and Monster, but the reality is that they should be tapping connections they should have made in their last four years of college.
So why are youth disinterested and not taking notice of the importance of professional networking? Because there’s no instant gratification. Generation Y is all about instant gratification. As a core trait of the demographic, it is easily one of its biggest flaws. With social media, Generation Y sticks to websites like Facebook and Twitter, where they can make a post or tweet and seconds later their written words can be liked, commented on, or simply read. LinkedIn and its networking for the future do not fit the instant gratification model. So Generation Y simply does not partake in it as a whole. They let it pass by until they have graduated college into a weak job market and are stuck without a job.
The best thing about social media is that it is never too late to get involved, though. Someone can join LinkedIn, request to become connected with some of their friends, coworkers, fellow students, or relatives, and within a week or two build a substantial network. Do yourself a favor…get LinkedIn and get networking. You may be surprised when a connection becomes a referral that lands you an interview for a job.