[11.30.10]
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New Research Findings On Social and Career Networking

research findings, social information processing, online social networking, world wide web, social network service, blog hosting services, linkedin open networker, career networking, social networking, web 2.0, social media, survey results, career networks, job search, job interview, career strategies, myspace, facebook, survey, twitter, surveys, linkedin, results, result, career, social A few weeks ago I asked people in my network a few questions.  I initiated a survey to get better results. To provide a broader view beyond my own. Here are the research findings.

The original intent was to complete a survey to better understand how different generations view the process of social or career networking.  Because one day you might find yourself (as a 45 year old) standing in front of someone influential.  Who happens to be 25.  Or just the opposite.

So I wanted to know how different age groups viewed social or career networking.  So that we could do a better job connecting with each other.

And then I asked some questions about interviewing.  Because while a job interview is a very different environment,  I was curious about that too.

So today’s post will share the research findings regarding social or career networking.  Both the general results and the generational differences.

On Thursday I will share the results of the job interview aspects of the survey.  Again, general research findings and how the results differed by age.

Methodology (How I Set It Up)

  • Survey participant targets were U.S. based (for simplicity) and former or current hiring managers (to gain perspective from those who are most highly targeted by job seekers).
  • Survey created via SurveyMonkey and promoted via this blog, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and via members of my network.

Limitations (Why The Results Are Not Perfect)

  • Participants were not vetted to confirm age or their current or former role as a hiring manager.
  • Based on the nature of my network (and the focus of this site) a healthy number of survey participants are looking for work or have recently been in transition.  You can decide whether the results are affected by their transition experience.
  • There is an age and geographical bias based on final survey participants.  47.3% of participants are 48-57 years old.  And 44.5% of participants are based on the west coast.

Who Participated (141 people completed the survey)

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Overall Social or Career Networking Research Findings

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The general results for question #1 are interesting as the majority of participants prefer a passive approach.  One that allows a certain amount of personal screening (Email, LinkedIn). Phone contact is next.  Other social media approaches (Facebook, Skype, Twitter, MySpace) are not favored as a method of first contact by most participants.

Generational results

100% of participants under age 27 (admittedly only 4) chose email over LinkedIn.  Participants between the ages of 28 and 47 (40 participants) chose email and LinkedIn as equals in terms of first contact preference.  67% of those between 48 and 57 prefer e-mail.

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My take on this one is that people are least comfortable networking via what they view as socially scary methods.  “Phone”, “In Person Group” and “Online” settings were the least favorite ways to network.  Perhaps because you have to perform.  While more controllable and  “socially safer” interactions like “Email” and “In Person One-On-One” are more comfortable.

Generational research findings

All age groups chose “phone” as the least comfortable networking method.  The strongest feelings registered with the 18-27 (60%) and 28-37 (43.8%) groups.  So while phone sounds convenient, a larger % of the younger participants do not prefer it.  “Online” was most feared by 48-57 (25%) and 58+ (31.8%).  In person group caused the most issues for 38-47 (28.1%) and 48-57 (29.4%).

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Results from this question reflects the true purpose of networking.  “How we can help each other” was one of three responses from almost everyone completing the survey.  Followed by “job search strategy”, “Career objectives”, “Making connections” and “New social media tools”.  At the bottom of the list was “politics” (not a big surprise), “Music, books and movies” and “hobbies”.  These play a role for some but are not the core conversations people want to have while networking.  Notable in “All Other Responses” include “marketing”, “kids”, “volunteering” and “pets”.

Generational research findings

While “How we can help each other” was the #1 answer for each age group, it was increasingly important as age increased.  Perhaps because as we get older we feel a little bit less able to help ourselves?  Or feel a little less flexible?  “Music, books and movies”, “social media tools” and “technology” showed the opposite trend.  Not surprising as younger generations have grown up with many of these as everyday items.

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Here are the results of these six questions:

  1. 42.3% consider themselves an open networker (will accept LinkedIn invites from anyone)
  2. 94.8% say they like to meet new people
  3. 54.0% say they network primarily in their industry or geography
  4. 93.2% indicate their preference for a personal LinkedIn invite (see other LinkedIn research done by @BillBoorman)
  5. 89.1% say that are more likely to connect with someone if referred by someone they trust
  6. 95.6% say they love to connect with people they think are a good match

The implications seem pretty clear.  All contribute to a relatively open networking environment.  But also suggest the value of a more personal and thoughtful approach.  It also appears that a more purposeful networking approach also makes sense.

Generational results: All participants between 18-37 prefer a personal LinkedIn invite.  However, of those 38+, at least 10% of participants said it wasn’t necessary.  Participants between 38 and 47 are least likely to be open networkers with 77.4% saying they would not connect with just anyone.  Interestingly those most likely to be open networkers are 18-27 (80%) and 58+ (52.4%).

Now it is your turn.  Sound off on these results and let me know what you think.

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Written by: Tim Tyrell-Smith
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Categories: Career Networking

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