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Giving Hope For All Those Impacted by the Social Media Onslaught

Last Saturday, I was an invited guest on a panel discussion during Social Media Weekend at Columbia University.

This is their second annual Social Media Weekend hosted by Prof. Sree Sreenivasan, Dean of Student Affairs, and a big social media fan. My panel guest were Maggie Mistal, nationally known career coach and former co-worker, along with David Gaspin, Head of Talent Acquisition at the Ladders. The name of our panel was “Social Media and Job Search.

The weekend consisted of workshops, panels and keynotes to help journalists, media professionals and others understand social media. Our current crop of social media tools are talked about constantly and get a lot of press.

Transitory tools, but more than that

Watch TV and you see the ubiquitous Twitter or Facebook logo. However, I believe that in 20 years from now people will likely no more recognize the name Facebook than they do MySpace or CompuServe. The landscape is constantly evolving and everyone is now looking for Facebook and Twitter.

The tools are transitory, but the social web is not.

As I rode the train in that Saturday morning, I gave thought to the audience make-up and made the assumption that we would be speaking to both undergrad college and graduate students. Since I got there a little early, I sat in on Google’s presentation of Google Plus Hangout On Air, which is an amazing tool.
As that panel ended and we headed up to the stage, I noticed that the room was filled up with Baby Boomers and some Gen Xers. I could count on one hand the number of Millennials that were in the audience. Not that they are not concerned about jobs or career, it’s just that they did not show up for this panel.

Industry changes and the fallout

To me, it felt like an audience that I knew well since I spent a considerable amount of my career in the publishing industry. I do not think there is an industry that has been as negatively impacted as this industry at the hands of social media. From newspapers and magazines to book publishing, the entire model has been changed.

My life has been affected by this onslaught. All my reading is now done on my Kindle.
At one time I had three weekend newspapers delivered to my home; now I have a single one delivered to my Kindle. I find an article online, use the app “Send to Kindle,” and there it is. The weekly magazine now seems stale with old news.

As an avid reader of books I found the transition hard, but what I found was that I could have access to my entire reading list in one, simple tool. No more heavy briefcase loaded with books. Blogging and social network have, first and foremost, had the impact of making every consumer or reader a potential producer or publisher.

Social media has empowered authors and potential authors. The digital revolution in general, and the web and social media in particular, have been and will continue to affect a sea change not only in publishing, but in all media industries as well.

It’s pretty clear that we’ve barely scratched the surface of how technology and communications will affect our lives, and the effect on the publishing industry is a lesson for all industries.

As we started the weekend session at Columbia, I got a sense that some members of this audience did all the right things — college, j-school, and great corporate jobs (or at least, jobs they did at one time). However, because of the tsunami of changes, they are trying to rebrand and either do a solo thing or try and get back into the corporate game.

The right pedigree, but misaligned

It was a room full of talent with all the right pedigrees and no work to match. We had a stimulating conversation throughout our 75 minutes on stage. The Q&A was phenomenal and the entire panel gave it their all. We lingered and took time to speak to everyone, gave encouragement, offered our services and guidance in any way.

My ride home found me looking out the window and staring at nothing in particular. I just hope that they picked up maybe a nugget of information that will advance their journey.

My hope is that we gave them hope. I will follow up as promised and have that cup of coffee over the next few weeks to everyone that will take me up on the offer.

I so wish I had an answer, but sometimes, even HR folks are left staring into space.



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