If it's a story about me, then I'll say so up front.

This is a blog about Truth, Justice and the American Way. The stories are true. No names have been changed to protect anyone's identity, including my own. If the story is about me, then I'll say so right up front. If I don't use a name to identify whom the story is about, then it's because it's not relevant. So please do not call me or e-mail me with your kind condolences or unwarranted congratulations about something that you believe is a cleverly disguised bio from my alter ego. These stories, like my photo, are unretouched.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Social Networking – Sometimes You CAN Pick Your Family

I have a dirty little secret. I have a second family stashed away in cyberspace. I didn’t choose them on purpose – at least not at first. But when I became unemployed, my friend Kathy Kamauu pushed me to use LinkedIn for business networking. So I joined a couple of professional Groups. This is as close to a sorority as I’ll ever get. I had to “apply” and I got positively giddy when I was accepted. Let’s face it, I’m not getting that much positive reinforcement these days.

In one of the groups, I was seduced by a subgroup – Professions and Industries. Now this is hard-core – sort of like joining a gang except you’re not required to wear your pants below your underwear which, I think you’ll agree, is a blessing for all of us.

There are lots of things that you can do in a LinkedIn group. You can go to the Job Board to see what’s available; you can check out the Promotions for free webinars and upcoming events; you can search other members’ blogs; or you can join a discussion group on a specific topic. I gleefully started discussions of my own and participated in others. I made some interesting on-line acquaintances. And then one day I stumbled into the greatest LinkedIn Group of all time: The CAREER INSIDER NETWORK.

And I was home.

There’s no explaining it. This is a group unlike any other. Some discussion “threads” have strict rules. This one has no rules at all. We give each other advice (some of it actually worthwhile). We uncover recruiting scams and gleefully name names to warn others. We cheer each other’s victories – be it a full job offer or merely a 2nd interview. We dispense sympathy when an offer falls through. We are a support group! We welcome newcomers with open arms, but woe to the newbie who wanders into “The Thread” and attacks someone personally, because we are fiercely protective of our family unit.

Serious friendships have developed. People have met face-to-face as a direct result of this group. Members pass along confidential information privately when they hear of an opening that might be right for someone. We bitch. We cheer each other up. We occasionally tell “Knock Knock” jokes. OK, that’s not totally true. Sharn in Thailand occasionally tells KK jokes. The rest of us groan. Professional recruiters and employment consultants such as Rick in Los Angeles and Kim in North Carolina regularly dispense advice both publicly and privately to members, generously giving away what others pay good money to get.

Swifty in the UK tells us that outsourcing is such a problem over there, he fully expects the government to outsource the Queen to China. Mark Dennis in the Philippines is our resident wisecracker and pun enthusiast. Marissa in San Antonio shares great Tex-Mex recipies and George “Stud Muffin” Gurney tells terrible jokes but since he owns the discussion, there’s not really much that we can do to stop him.

This, folks, is social networking at its finest. It is different from “social media” where people use blogs and discussion groups to try to sell their products or drive traffic to their websites. And it certainly isn’t FaceBook, which I have always considered to be a strictly “social” kind of networking between friends.

This is one of those rare instances when lightning strikes; when all of the windows turn and line up perfectly. An unusual occurrence when a business group turns into a family while remaining within the context of conducting business. We in this dysfunctional little family are virtually all in the same boat. We are all formerly middle or upper-middle management types who have, as a direct result of the economic collapse, inexplicably found themselves unemployed, often for the first time in our lives. From that misery has arisen a support group unlike any other. With people from at least 20 different countries, we have forged a bond and discovered that frustration and disillusionment is the same the world over.

This is pure social networking on a business level. It’s not for everyone. But to quote Lynn, one of our newest members, as she said this morning, “I don't know what I would do without you all. I love this board :)”