Sunday, 22 February 2009

Asking for help online

Mitch Joel blogged about a USA Today article earlier this month. The article was titled: Many turning to Web to ask for help. The story is that there is growing evidence that in this time of recession, people are turning to their online contacts and networks for support.

Mitch suggests that companies, as well as many individuals still don't fully understand the potential value that such networks can offer. They don't get the concept of social capital.

I think careers educators and advisers could play an important part in helping their clients appreciate the significance of social capital. We can also help our clients to adopt a more sophisticated and structured approach to building and utilising social capital in the research/job hunting.

One of Mitch's blog readers from Nashville, Tennessee comments: "I find myself recently unemployed but with the network of friends and colleagues that I have built up over many years the out pouring of encouragement is amazing."

What's interesting is that within our networks, it's believed that the loose, weak ties are often the ones which can offer us the most. The social web now offers us the ability to keep and maintain many weaker contacts, which we'd otherwise have long since abandonned.

At a conference recently a speaker commented that some young teenagers are happy to count almost everyone they have ever met as online contacts. For some it's a competition to collect the most "friends" or demonstrate popularity to peers. But it will be intersting to see how such young people make use of these contacts as they grow up.

And increasingly when times get tough(er), or we need help to find new opportunities, it's our social networks that will be the first line of assistance. Careers advisers, counselors and educators need to get to grips with the social web, they need to have a social web presence and learn how to engage with clients through this medium.

My picture here shows a cycle of social capital development. It draws on the work of John-Paul Hatala and FLOWORK - and if you are interested in this field I would thoroughly recommend their materials and resources. Check out their website here.