About a year ago, I received an invitation to connect to someone on LinkedIn. I have to admit I had fallen behind the times.
Despite the increasing popularity of online social networks, I had largely avoided them up to that point. I didn’t have a LinkedIn profile. I had a Facebook account but didn’t use it, and while I followed several online forums, I was mostly just a lurker. My reasons were simple. Other than my visibility as a magazine editor, I’m a private person. I generally prefer to listen rather than talk, and sharing my information on a public forum didn’t appeal to me. And then there’s the issue of time. Even just lurking could make an entire hour vanish in the blink of an eye. If I became actively engaged in a topic, vast quantities of productivity would likely be diverted. It was safer to maintain my barrier of silence.
Lately, however, my view is changing. For both personal and professional reasons, I find myself being drawn into the labyrinth of online networks to rekindle old connections and create new ones. And I’m not alone. A recent article in USA Today points out that LinkedIn is now adding 1 million members every two weeks compared with 1 million per month in early 2008.1 According to Elliot Schrage, Facebook’s vice president of communications and public policy, the number of people actively using Facebook more than doubled in 2008 to reach 140 million users worldwide.2 Even our own RPLS.com bulletin board saw a 52-percent increase in new users last year.
Much of this growth, particularly in the more professional networks such as LinkedIn (and, to some extent, RPLS.com), can be attributed to recession fallout. Online networking has become the trend du jour among the victims of corporate downsizing as an increasing number of people seek to cast a wider net for possible job opportunities. While there is still a lack of evidence as to whether such tools actually work (success is difficult to gauge when few companies are hiring), the old adage nevertheless holds true: Often it’s not what you know but who you know that can make all the difference in achieving career and business goals.
Several of our articles this month illustrate this point well. Our cover story (page 12) highlights how Todd Beers, PLS, has experienced success in using laser scanning technology largely because of his efforts to create a network of colleagues who understand and value the business benefits of the technology. In his informative article “In the Pipeline” (page 26), Paul Curcio, PE, points out that surveying and mapping professionals who want to take advantage of opportunities in the utilities field should not only understand subsurface utility engineering (SUE) but also form an alliance with a SUE provider. And “A Winning Bet” (page 20) follows the story of three firms that formed a strategic alliance to complete as-built surveys for the Las Vegas Convention Center--and, as a result, changed their entire way of thinking about how to pursue new projects. As summarized by Tim Beck, PLS, project manager of Heritage Surveying, “We like to take the approach that we can accomplish anything, but right now, it’s all about who you know and who you work with and being as efficient as you can.”
Networking has always been important, but it has become vitally so in today’s challenging economic environment. Whether you expand your outreach through more traditional means such as trade shows and personal recommendations or through online social networking tools, you never know when those connections will lead to new opportunities.
Incidentally, I now have a LinkedIn profile, and I occasionally interact on Facebook just for fun. I’ve also finally given in and created a Twitter page where I’m experimenting with posting regular updates on topics that might be of interest to our readers. You can follow me atwww.twitter.com/kristipob.
Or just contact me by e-mail or phone. Call me old-fashioned, but I still prefer more personal connections.
1. Swartz, Jon, “Bad News for Workers is Good News for LinkedIn,” USA Today, Dec. 31, 2008,www.usatoday.com.
2. Schrage, Elliott, “The Spirit of 2008,” The Facebook Blog, blog.facebook.com.
To contact the editor, send an e-mail to pobeditor@bnpmedia .