Remember when musings of the Internet was just a fad? Remember when the compass and slide rule were irreplaceable? Remember when the Post Office was relevant? Well, as it turns out, the Internet is here to stay; if you have a compass and slide rule you just might get your 15 minutes of fame on PBS’ Antiques Road Show; and I can’t recall the last time I paid bill or sent a hand written letter via snail mail. That said, consider yourself forewarned in regards to the utilization of Social Networking sites LinkedIn (44M+ users), Facebook (250M+users) and Twitter (4.5M+ users), among others – don’t be a naysayer, or you will be left in the dust. Chances are, if you are reading this, you are familiar with, and hopefully active on, one or more of these technologies. The key is – how can you make sure your company stays relevant by using them effectively?
10 WAYS SOCIAL NETWORKING CAN IMPACT YOUR BUSINESS & CAREER AS A CIVIL ENGINEERING PROFESSIONAL
1. Recruiting Professionals - Did you see the user statistics in the above paragraph? And those are only the three most popular sites among hundreds. And guess what? I suspect there are likely hundreds of thousands of members of the civil engineering community who utilize these tools and share information. They have put themselves “out there.” By joining these networks yourself and “working the network,” you will find many outstanding professional candidates, both passive and active. This topic of recruiting on social networks is quite a robust topic and information can easily be found online, in books or through various seminars. There are plenty of experts in this area so invest a little bit of time and money to catch you and your firm up to speed.
2.Industry News - Facebook, Twitter & Linkedin all have users and user groups who will be of interest to you. You will find that ENR, ASCE, Society of Hispanic Engineers, SMPS, etc all have active users and groups on these sites where news bites and press releases are shared regularly. Also, by connecting with other friends and colleagues within the industry you will often read status updates or tweets in regards to local infrastructure news.
3.Relationship Building – Learn what your colleagues, clients, and potential clients are doing; learn their interests; follow their tweets; make logical and profound comments in response to theirs. You can get a real sense of their personality, interests, etc that will certainly assist during face-to-face marketing efforts.
4. Marketing/Branding – Develop a Facebook Fan/Group page with blog entries, promotions, press releases, wins, job postings, awards, charity events, etc.; tweet these same items; develop a compelling corporate profile on LinkedIn and make sure your employees do as well.
5. Recruiting College Students-This is a “no brainer”. If you want to reach out to the next generation of civil engineers you need to have a strong corporate brand on Facebook and MySpace for sure. When visiting college campuses for recruiting trips have a couple laptops up and running at your table exhibiting these pages and invite them to join your pages or groups on line. Come prepared with business cards that provide the URL’s of your corporate social networking sites. College students want to work for firms that understand and are avid users of the web 2.0 technology that they utilize. 85% of college students are active on Facebook, 65% are active on MySpace. Again, a “no brainer.”
6.Recruiting Boomerangs – How often have you had employees of your firm fly the coup, only to return because the grass was not greener on the other side? By staying in touch with well respected ex-employees by inviting them to join a group where they will be exposed to all the great news that is occurring with your firm, you are giving yourself a nice advantage above other firms when the time comes that he or she begins to look for a new job. Firms like URS & Toll Brothers, among others, each have “Alumni” groups on Linkedin.
7. RFP’s – It’s only a matter of time before builders, agencies and architects will be tweeting RFP’s.
8. Professional Growth – By joining Facebook or LinkedIn groups, or by following specific associations or trainers or presenters on Twitter, you can remain well informed of all of the conferences, seminars, blogs, articles and publications being offered that you find relevant in your career.
10.Ignorance is Bliss. Do not fall into this trap. These networks are no longer the wave of the future, they are a mainstay. As a civil engineering professional, by not jumping on board you will become a relic – and this label is not something you or your firm will want to be labeled as as the demand for talent begins to hit the upswing.
As you can see, I intentionally left a blank space after #9 – what might you suggest to fill in that blank?
That’s right, Social NOTworking. This title has a double meaning, which I will get to in a minute.
If you have the internet in front of you, you cannot help but at the very least be aware of the social networking/web 2.0 phenomenon. Here are some of the more prevalent social networking/web 2.0 sites that you may be a member of:
Linkedin, MySpace, Classmates.com, Facebook, ERE, Flickr, Meetup.com, Twitter, Second Life, Ning, Plaxo, Naymz, Xanga and FastPitch. And trust me when I tell you, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Used properly in terms of your profession, these sites live up to the “Social Networking” category that they reside in. Used improperly in terms of your profession, they become what I like to call “Social NOTworking” sites. Check it out:
A. Are the social networking sites NOT working for you in meeting your professional networking goals?
B. Are the social networking sites bogging you down so much that you are NOT working?
If you answered “YES” to question A:
The first issue that you may want to address is actually question B. Beyond that, what you need to realize is that these social networks are great tools (“tools” being the key word here). The challenge is to utilize all your tools in your workbench, but some recruiters are SO reliant on these sites the same way so many recruiters are reliant solely on online resume databases that nothing much of measure is ever accomplished. You would not build a swing set with just a Phillips head screwdriver, right?
As a recruiter or HR professional, or even as a hiring manager or staff level engineer always on the lookout for outstanding additions to your team, make sure you are looking on the RIGHT sites. Chances are you are not going to find a civil engineering professionals hanging out on MySpace or running around on Second Life, but you may find those quality professionals on Linkedin or Facebook (Facebook is very similar to MySpace, but the presentation and the quality of content is much classier and desirable). For civil engineering, stick with the pioneers in social networking like Facebook & Linkedin – they are conservative and professional and run parallel to the personalities that we associate with the civil engineering community. Everyone else is trying to develop the next best social networking site, and each time they pull themselves further and further away from mainstream into areas that are unique, but not relevant to your professional audience. Though I am not a civil engineer, I am confident that civil engineers are not following each others’ every move on Twitter.
Finally, because these sites ARE all the rage, you cannot deny them. Develop interesting and exciting company MySpace or FaceBook pages that reach out to the college crowd. Have your employees blog or answer questions on the corresponding forums, throw up some pictures of completed projects or of your CEO knocking down a strike for the company bowling team, post jobs and publish press releases. Show up to the college career fairs with a couple of laptops displaying your MySpace of Facebook page and impress the masses. There is rarely a college student on campus who does not utilize one of these sites in their life.
If you answered “YES” to question B:
First and foremost, if you did answer “YES” to question B and you would like to respond in a defensive manner to this blog entry, make sure you come up with a nifty user name, you do not want your boss to know you are a “Social NOTworker.”
I suspect for a lot of people their day goes, or has gone, something like this: Arrive at the office at 8:30 AM, fire up a hot cup of joe and crank on the computer. Logon to your Linkedin account and check out the connection updates that occurred overnight, and then the status updates. But hey, cool, you can expand that list to see ALL of those updates, not just the most recent half dozen. Checking out what your connections did overnight, you click on the people that they made connections with and see if you might know them. If you do know them, then you make a request to connect, which leads to the frequent clicking of the “Send/Receive” button on your outlook toolbar all day. Maybe you don’t know that person, but you used to work at the company they work for, or maybe your neighbor does, so you click on the company name to see what other people in your extended network may work for them in an effort to connect. Going to the status updates you see all the completely irrelevant groups (with the exception of course to the Civil Engineering Central Group) that your connections joined, like the Google Group that is for those who use Google as their primary search engine (boy, what a way to really differentiate yourself); or The Open Networker Group which puts you in a group where everyone connects with everyone and you are not allowed to turn down an invitation or you will be booted out. You’ve requested to join all the groups that you want to join for the day and you anxiously await for the group moderator to approve your admittance into those groups. Along the way you have read and contributed to all the blogs that your connections run and you finally look up and realize that it is now 10:30AM…not only do you need a refill on your coffee, but you realize that you forgot to logon to your Twitter account before you even came to work this morning so you could let everyone know how you were feeling at that moment, only then to let everyone know that you were eating a bowl of Golden Grahams for breakfast. Time for a break, you’ve been working hard, so take a 10 minute stroll around the office, refill the coffee mug, sit back down to check your email and you see that your ex-girlfriend, one of your old college professors and the guy 3 cubes down from you have all posted comments on your wall on your Facebook page. Logon to Facebook, check out your wall, reply back onto their walls, accept invitations from old friends or colleagues who have tracked you down, email them, check out their photo albums, tag people in their photos that you know, and then spend the next 30 minutes using the Classmate Search and People You May Know tools to further expand your network on Facebook. Take some worthless but fun quizzes, serve up a few electronic cocktails and join a few causes. Time for lunch. Take an hour away from the office, clear your head, have a nice lunch and return to the office refreshed and ready focus on work for the rest of the day. Work your butt off all afternoon playing catch up on all that you missed during the morning. Your day is almost done, it’s nearly 7PM, you are ready to finally go home, and because you can’t really NOT do it, you send a tequila booze mail to your new friends that you made on Facebook today, and send one to yourself in celebration of the fact that you just received an email indicating that your application to join the Overachievers Club, a private membership club on Linkedin for outstanding individuals.
Have you been a social NOTworker?
The fact is, social networking is here, it is relevant, and it can be utilized in so many different ways. These networks can be a lot of fun, but when it comes to using them for professional purposes, I am in no way suggesting that you abandon or ignore them, you will be left in the dust. But learn how to effectively use the well known sites like Linkedin & Facebook to recruit for your firm or for your clients. Be seen, enhance your visibility and credibility by being active in the forums and blogs that specifically relate to what you do, like the ones you find here at CivilEngineeringCentral.com , they are full of intelligent information that you can really use. Just be smart about it!
Finally, here is a little 5 minute clip you might enjoy…so sit back, throw back a