Recently, I was sifting through some job listings in both the entertainment and environmental industry hoping to find a summer internship that would, at the very least, get me away from home for two months. I was nervous because I had almost zero experience that would be considered valuable in either field. I knew just enough to take interest in pursuing law in one of the two areas. Since law internships are generally saved for law school students, I began searching in the specified fields themselves.
I am not particularly good at earth science and I know close to nothing about complex forms of movie editing. Thus, I began reading through the job descriptions with little hope that I would have anything to offer these companies. As I was searching through, there was one recurring requirement for many of the listings that stood out to me. The requirement took some varying form of, "social media savvy". Some companies were even looking specifically for a social media intern. After seeing this a number of times I thought, "Wait a second. Social media? Are you telling me the hours I have spent procrastinating on facebook and Tumblr could actually get me a job?"
Now I understand it is not that simple. The ability to chat with multiple friends while writing a paper is not exactly the workplace skill they are searching for. What these companies want is someone who can use the various social media sites to market their product or idea. They want someone who understands how to get the word out quickly and effectively.
In one Atlanta Business News article, Bob Van Rossum, president of a marketing recruitment company, is quoted saying, "social media networks provide cost-effective ways for companies to put out their message and provide information to people in a personal, one-on-one way... It's marketing without the perception that you're trying to market to someone." The article also lists a number of companies, much like the ones I had come across in my own job search, that list Twitter, facebook, Wikis, blogs, etc. in their key characteristics for potential employees.
Even the New York Times has reassigned one of their editors to be specifically a social media editor. A particularly interesting entry I was reading on Venturebeat.com the other day had posted a leaked internal email from the New York Times Newsroom discussing this new (at the time) position. In the email it was stated, "an awful lot of people are finding our work not by coming to our homepage or looking at our newspaper but through alerts and recommendations from their friends and colleagues. So we ought to learn how to reach those people effectively and serve them well."
It is true isn't it? While a number of people still do check the news on The New York Times website itself, many people are not quite as diligent and only check the news when they see something interesting mentioned on their preferred social network. Other people actively check their social media sources for news updates rather than the news itself. They trust that if their friends and colleagues find something important enough to share, they themselves will find it important as well. It is a way of avoiding the tedious process of sifting through all the news unrelated to your own interests to find something that is important to you personally.
I am not going to lie, I still feel a little funny about the fact that I basically added Tumblr to the skills section in my resume. Time that I previously thought was wasted, or merely used for personal enjoyment, has now become an asset to me in the job market. Though certain businesses are more prone to using this sort of skill than others, the variety of industries that are currently looking for employees with social media experience is surprising.
We have reached an era when personal blogs are being sent in as writing samples for hopeful applicants. That is, if you have not been lucky enough to make blogging itself your career... Which is a whole other topic on its own.