Does being big on Twitter help you land a good job?
- 3 July 2012
- From the section Magazine
What's the best way to impress employers - having tons of Twitter followers, or a flashy CV? Go for big-name companies and prestige every time, advises Lucy Kellaway of the Financial Times.
If you asked me about my working life, I would tell you that I've worked at the Financial Times for a quarter of a century. If pressed further, I might reveal (depending on who was asking) that long ago I worked briefly for JPMorgan. I might also add that I went to Oxford University.
Yet according to a blog on the Harvard Business Review website , this sort of institutional name-dropping is not only vain and superficial, it has outlived its usefulness.
Prestige simply isn't as prestigious as it used to be.
For a start many of the big names aren't looking so impressive any more. We don't revere Goldman Sachs or News Corp or McKinsey in the same way we used to.
And social networks mean we no longer have to rely on the names of institutions to do our signalling for us - we can do it ourselves.
The upshot is that young people should stop scrambling over each other for jobs at Bain and Morgan Stanley - all such big names do is pigeonhole people. The only true way to stand out is to stop focusing on who you are working for, and think of what you are doing instead.
This blog is one of the most cheering things I've read in ages.
Or rather it would be cheering if it weren't for the fact that it is completely wrong.
Of course it is achievements that count. The trouble is, most people, apart from a few entrepreneurs, haven't really achieved anything terribly tangible. If you are Mark Zuckerberg you don't need big names on your CV. The rest of us do.
Far from getting less important, flashy affiliations are now more important than ever. This is partly because the job market is so bad that everyone needs all the help they can get. But it's also because getting these good jobs and good degrees is harder than it used to be.
In my day what counted was breeding and luck, with effort and skill lagging far behind. Now the order is reversed.
Anybody who has got a job at Goldman and held on to it for a decade has achieved something that might not be socially valuable, but offers conclusive proof that the person is bright and hardworking - as well as possibly arrogant and greedy.
Neither do social networks make affiliations redundant. The more information there is out there, the more we need a few decent names on a CV as a shortcut.
And I fail to see how being big on Twitter makes you attractive to future employers. Surely it just tells them you spend more time composing silly little messages than working.
So I would advise the ambitious to go for prestige every time. Of course it is shallow and unfair, but it works.
Having a prestigious employer already is a great help in finding a new one. And the great thing about such affiliations is that even if they don't impress others (which they do, mostly) they may impress yourself.
In my experience these mighty institutions work well as comfort blankets, wombs and crutches, all roles that are generally frowned on - but wrongly so. I'm a huge fan of all three.