Social Media Breakfast 7 Boston
The top sign that a professional event was worth it to the audience occurs when each participant gets home. If you find yourself sorting through your notes, checking out new sites, updating your feeds, and adding people to your contacts, you know you've found a good one.
The golden snitch is our old friend, relevance. I could walk into a Meetup of astrophysicists, gain an accurate sense of how cool and impressive the folks are, and understand almost none of their discussion. I could walk into a meeting of Flash developers, understands some of what they are saying, be impressed by the esoteric parts of the conversation that are 10 game levels above my grasp, file a few useful tidbits away for the next time I work with Flash developers, but that would be the end of that.
The Social Media Breakfast, organized by the excellent Bryan Person, provided that great sense of an exact match: the speakers were all dealing with the questions that I'm *already* thinking about. There was a lot of "new" (names, insights, links, etc.) but it was new information that fit into and extended the set of things I work on or am curious about right now. In a trifecta, the talks were valuable, the hanging out with people was valuable, and later that day I was busily making a list of people, ideas, and links to follow up on. Bing bing bing (sound of imaginary pinball machine).
So much so that not only am I indulging in my old skool long-form blogging about SMB (ironic, given the Twitter-worship going on that morning) but will divide it into two posts on stuff from the speakers, and stuff from my table-mates.
Speaker Value from the Breakfast
Stever Robbins, "Get It Done Guy"
I am a junkie for Lifehacker, GTD, and The Spirit of Getting Organized, a Backpack subscriber and 37Signals fan. I consider the self-management of time and individual action the number one skill that my traditional liberal arts schools not only did not teach, but had no words to express. So this site went into my Netvibes.
Stever began what turned out to be a morning-long love fest with Twitter, a techno-crush in which all the speakers are still in the throes. Stever has a gift for aphorisms: one was that in social media "frequency trumps duration."
He proposed: if you are in the business (or perhaps, as a job seeker, in the moment) of getting known, then people will remember you more if you take part in many conversations a bit then if you publish in-depth but infrequentl. Arguable, I'd say, if you change the timeframe and go out a few years. I can still remember key web documents from ten years ago (The Cathedral and the Bazaar, The Clue Train Manifesto) if they were valuable enough, whereas I've certainly forgotten many smart and pleasant AIM/Skype buddies and bloggers from the last year alone.
However, most of us are not writing for the long tail, but for an immediate purpose such as solving a problem, sharing an insight, improving our skills, or finding something great to explore today. In that context, Stever was convincing: people build up a persona in their field not just by blogging and Flickring but by commenting on and linking to other's blogs and photostreams. Twitter manages to embrace both folks who excel at micro-content and those who create longer stuff, because it's an simple, mobile, lightweight pointer to what's interesting and valuable.
The other reason I heart this guy is for saying "I hate networking but I love conversations," thus summing up and validating the EXACT sensation I am having in my current job search and in each one since college. Reminds me of a great Seth Godin post I clipped awhile back, where he says (in essence) there's no such thing as networking. Sharing value with folks over time, by creating good content, giving others help or feedback or encouragement, without immediate expectation or solicitation of getting something, and doing this faithfully day to day to day, nurtures connections with actual value. Social media gives you huge power to do this, but can't automate this. Stever's method of doing this is to use Twitter to ask intriguing questions, thus simultaneously having good conversations and gathering material for his next book. Cool.
Aaron Strout of Mzinga
Actually generated the theme of this event be writing (and living) a post called "Hiring in a 2.0 World." The huge lightbulb for me in this was that my whole presence at SMB came from a moment when I shouted (internally, in a coffee shop in Coolidge Corner) "I hate my resume!"
Very succinctly, Aaron put his finger on why the conventional Word/print resume as a tool, and the traditional hiring process, seem so broken and insufficient for those of us who've been working primarily in the web for years.
On a personal note, one of my long-time stories is that I would rather do some work for you then go through the usual hiring process. I have actually been hired this way before--a manager with whom I interviewed with one morning had someone quit on her suddenly, so she took a shot in the dark and asked me to do a couple of hours' work for her that afternoon (in my mind, one of the best ways I ever got a job). I think I excel at doing work, but I suck at asking for work (or rather, the weird verbal exercise of "prove to me that you are the perfect person for this job, career, and planet"). So I was jazzed to hear the speakers frame this discussion as "ways to use social media such that you are demonstrating your work to potential future managers and colleagues rather than just making resume claims."
The other speakers, Todd Defren, of SHIFT Communications and the PR Squared blog and Chris Brogan of CrossTech Media, were also good fun. Both spoke to the fact that in the tech and PR worlds, the reality and impact of your online social presence is a ship that has left the dock. You either have one, or your lack of one discounts you from some realms. The upside and downside is an increased visibility of your human side--your professional and private realms are visible and overlap.
Bosses and clients can view your social media and see that you are a thoughtful person who's curious and energetic and thinking intriguing thoughts about your field outside of specific assignments (key to being a trusted advisor).
Good idea to manage your public profile. Good idea not to post about things about which you would be ashamed (thought: or *DO* them?). Folks can also see stuff about you that is simply silly, rather than harmful. VP of Marketing, better post that Lost fanfic on Livejournal under the alias SawyerIsHot and NOT under your Twitter handle TechMarketingGal.
More seriously, social media mean people can also see you have this whole life where you go to bars and ballgames and obsess about passions like your music, or travel, or garden, and have (gasp) family and friends whom you love in a way that you don't love work. It's up to you to be comfortable with that. In the end, any good boss or client is going to judge you on what you deliver. If they're the type to judge you negatively because Twitter reveals you escaped your desk and made it to your daughter's dance recital or hiked Mount Washington this Saturday rather then spending it in the office . . . this is a great time to figure out how to get a job with people with whom you share a perspective on life.