Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
July 16, 2009 5:33 AM

Employment 2.0

There is no doubt that the employment landscape is shifting. It's not just the stats from the national or local employment rate. It also has little to do with the recession, getting fired, or being laid off. There is a new way of getting hired, and a simple resume on an 8 x 11 piece of white paper is not going to cut it anymore.

Young people just out of university are smarter, sharper and way more connected than most businesses. So businesses not keeping pace with what it takes to hire the best and brightest talent are going to fall behind.

Which are the businesses that will win?

For the most part, it's going to be the ones that do not lock their employees out of Facebook and YouTube. It will be the ones that embrace the idea that work is no longer limited to 9 to 5, and that work is no longer the primary motivation for young people in terms of their career development (believe it or not, these folks want to be happy and do something good for the world). Successful businesses will also be the ones that understand that a mobile device (iPhone, BlackBerry, Palm Pre) and a laptop is the office.

The problem is that these young people will also find it difficult to get through the regular regimen of a serious human resources department if their Facebook profile is filled with pictures of them on a weekend bender with buddies. In 2007, New York Magazine ran a brilliant cover story on youth, the Internet and privacy entitled "Say Everything" by Emily Nussbaum:

"We are in the sticky centre of a vast psychological experiment, one that's only just begun to show results. More young people are putting more personal information out in public than any older person ever would - and yet they seem mysteriously healthy and normal, save for an entirely different definition of privacy. From their perspective, it's the extreme caution of the earlier generation that's the narcissistic thing. ...There is another way to look at this shift. Younger people, one could point out, are the only ones for whom it seems to have sunk in that the idea of a truly private life is already an illusion. Every street in New York has a surveillance camera. Each time you swipe your debit card at Duane Reade or use your MetroCard, that transaction is tracked. Your employer owns your e-mails. The NSA owns your phone calls. Your life is being lived in public whether you choose to acknowledge it or not. So it may be time to consider the possibility that young people who behave as if privacy doesn't exist are actually the sane people, not the insane ones."

So, if all of these young people have these pictures and stories up online, who - exactly - are you going to hire?

What today's youth have realized (and what some of the more progressive businesses are starting to pick up on) is that by putting themselves "out there," the benefits of having all of this content displaying who they really are, what they really like, and what they're hoping to accomplish in life makes the risk of what might happen if this information falls into the wrong hands worth the risk. Yes, there are some nasty people out there - the kind of people who lure others out of the online channel into the real world. At the same time, we all have to realize that we are quickly becoming increasingly "naked" because of these online channels and how they facilitate our interconnectedness.

The truth is that business knows this already. Don't think for a second that before a hire is made at a company that someone within the organization has not done a thorough Google search on a potential candidate's online footprint. From LinkedIn and Facebook to Twitter and Flickr, everyone has a growing story to tell.

That is the new resume. We can cower back, draw the digital curtains, and blow out the virtual candles that light our online personas, or we can embrace it and recognize that the real performers of the coming decade in business will be the young people who are out there blogging, tweeting, podcasting and lifestreaming everything from the innocuous to the most important moments of their lives.

Not only will this become an amazing and living legacy for their future family, but it also becomes one of the best ways to hire for your business. We all know that a one-sheet with a list of educational facilities and previous employment positions can never tell the whole story. We also know that no potential employees are going to offer up individuals to provide personal references who won't give a glowing review. We also know that Google never lies. If that person had a run-in with the law or if they were awarded a distinction within their community, the story is there, it's searchable, and it can be commented on by peers and the general public.

In the end, maybe it is business that needs to wake up and realize that it's about time for them to start saying everything.

The above posting is my twice-monthly column for the Montreal Gazette and Vancouver Sun newspapers called, New Business - Six Pixels of Separation. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original versions online here:

- Vancouver Sun - Employment 2.0 - The new resume is out there.
- Montreal Gazette - Employment 2.0 - Forget the 8 1/2 by 11 single-sheet resumé.

By Mitch Joel