Time spent on social networks can be an incredible investment in your professional development - and not just because it can help you find your next job. For the work you're doing today, it can lead to increased job security, growth in compensation and lots of new opportunities.
Why is that?
I think the best articulation of this that I've read in some time comes from Chuck Frey's ebook Up Your Impact: 52 Innovative Strategies to Add Value to Your Work
Note: If social networking is good for your career, social networking augmented by a Little Bird subscription is great; where the writers below talk about finding great information, here at Little Bird we believe that one step better is finding great people who will share great information in the future. Find them now and you'll be among the first to find key information resources in the future.
First the set-up, from early in the book. I think this is a great way to approach work: to focus on adding value.
"Success has always been about contribution and service, about doing more than you’re paid to do, and outgrowing your current position and circumstances. It’s about having a system for creative problem solving and noticing new opportunities, which are all around us but aren’t usually obvious."
Then, later in the book, Frey writes specifically about the role of social networks and forums, in a section titled Participate in the flows of knowledge in your profession or industry.
There he advises professionals interested in increasing their workplace impact to do the following. "Get involved in discussion forums and other online gathering places where your professional peers are sharing ideas and asking questions. These 'edge networks' – as John Seeley Brown, John Hagel III and Lang Davidson describes them in their excellent book, The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion – are where some of the very best ideas and insights lie.
"This is becoming necessary because of the rapidly diminishing life span of knowledge and by accelerating advances in technology, medicine and other disciplines. Practitioners in any field need to be able to talk to each other and share the latest solutions and knowledge. 'To succeed now, we have to continually refresh our stocks of knowledge by participating in relevant ‘flows’ of knowledge—interactions that create knowledge or transfer it across individuals. These flows occur in any social, fluid environment that allows firms and individuals to get better faster by working with others.'"
"The authors contend that knowledge is growing too fast for executives to learn using conventional means, such as books, college courses and seminars. Social media channels and online discussion forums are quickly becoming hotbeds where people who share a common domain expertise can debate and discuss the latest trends in their area of shared interest.
"Participating in these groups also increases the odds of serendipity – coming across a key nugget of knowledge or information that has the potential to transform your career or your organization. Participating in these groups is a potent way to add value to your job, bringing promising ideas back from the edge to your company for discussion and consideration. Your reputation as a thought leader could be greatly enhanced by being the person who explores these fringe areas and presents potential opportunities to your company’s senior management."
What's the value of enhancing your reputation as a thought leader and presents potential opportunities to your company's senior management? (Or, if you are senior management, finding them yourselves?) Frey argues that in a world of post-industrial corporate downsizing, it's important to raise yourself above the level of interchangeable worker and make yourself a uniquely valuable contributor in the workplace. That will have a big impact on your job security. I believe that a big increase in the value that flows through you in the workplace is the best way to gain responsibilities, compensation and appreciation, too.
Here's how another good article puts it, The Future of You, in the Harvard Business Review, by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic.
"Whether you are self-employed or employed by others, whether you work in a big business or own a small business, your career success depends on your ability to offer something new: new solutions for existing problems; new services and products; new ideas; etc. Everything that isn't new is old, and if you are doing old you are stuck in the past. In the age entrepreneurship, the future of you is new, and your value depends on your ability to do things differently. As the great Alan Kay pointed out, 'a change in perspective is worth 80 IQ points.'
"Hyperconnectivity is about being a signal in the sea of data and making and shaping the waves of social knowledge.
We are all online, but what matters is being a relevant connector. Hyperconnectivity is not about being online 24/7; it's about optimizing the online experience for others...
"The world's knowledge is too large to be stored anywhere; Wikipedia and Google aren't enough; the Library of Congress isn't enough. Hyperconnectors point us in the right direction. Anybody can upload a video on YouTube or tweet, but only a few can direct us to the videos or tweets we want to see.
"The most important form of knowledge today is knowing where to find stuff. In fact, the ability to find stuff is now almost as important as the ability to create stuff. Hyperconnectors are the creative of the digital era because in the age of information overload, where everybody creates online content, effectively curating content is what really matters."
How did I find these important pieces of content above, in order to share them with you? The Future of You piece was in HBR, which is a well-known great source of information. But there are more sources of value online than any individual person knows and Little Bird can help you find them. Chuck Frey, the author of the book containing the first excerpt here, is a mind mapping expert - in fact he's the mind mapping expert followed on Twitter by more other mind mapping experts than anyone else. I ran a Little Bird report on Mind Mapping a few days ago, and then looked up the top 20 people in the report over on Google+. There's great content there - and I made the Circle I created public, thus sharing not one item of value but a whole stream of valuable items in the future. Feel free to follow all those people there too.
We here at Little Bird hope that 2013 will be a great time for you to find all kinds of valuable nuggets of information and actionable opportunities that will help increase your workplace value and fulfillment! Please let us know if there's any way we can help you in that work.