Three Reasons to Become a Social Media Narcissist

by O'Donnell, J.T. Wednesday, September 02, 2009
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Two weeks ago, a fellow blogger e-mailed me about the launch of his company’s new social media platform for Gen Y workers. He said, “It’s like LinkedIn for young people.” While I didn’t say it directly to him, my first reaction was: What’s the point? I couldn’t see how connecting a bunch of young folks who lacked work history or professional connections was valuable. The power of using LinkedIn is to ‘link’ with a person who can help your career - which usually involves someone with more experience and connections than you. So, why would a 23-year old recent grad want to connect with a bunch of other 20-somethings with the same limited career identity? In fact, I’m sure many people had the same short-sighted reaction to my blogger friend’s new platform, so let me get back to the story and explain what changed my mind...

A week later, I received the results of a study which proves Gen Y is knowingly narcissistic and thinks social media for self-promotion is vital to career success. In particular, it highlighted how 80+% of Gen Y use a form of social media on a daily basis and believe that drawing attention to yourself is a good way to move up in your career. I started to think about the connection between this study and my friend’s new social media tool and suddenly thought: “Wow, Gen Y is on to something. Being a Social Media Narcissist is a good thing.” Based on my observations, here are 3 reasons to seriously consider becoming a Social Media Narcissist:

#1 - Who Cares About IQ, It’s Your EQ That Will Advance Your Career

Yes, we use social media to draw attention to ourselves so we can connect with others, but social media offers a powerful added benefit: It’s also a virtual classroom that can help us improve our emotional intelligence (EQ). In this day and age, studies show EQ (ability to perceive, use, understand and manage our emotions and those of others) is a better predictor of professional success than IQ. The more you engage in social media use, the better you become at representing yourself online in order to get the reaction you desire from others. Now, that’s not to say that a lot of young people haven’t made some pretty BIG mistakes with social media (i.e. photos on Facebook, trash talking on Twitter, unprofessional blog posts, etc.), but those very public incidents have been well-documented in the media, thus helping others learn how they may want to engage (or not engage) social media to build their personal brand. Which means, young professionals who choose to participate in social media platforms designed to discuss career development challenges (like my blogger friend’s new platform), are educating themselves on how to interact effectively with their peers - who also happen to be their future co-workers, managers, and even potential customers. Which leads to my next point...

#2 - Friends Today...References, Mentors & Clients Tomorrow

Looking back on my own work experience, I realize now that many of my close professional colleagues are people who I connected with in my 20’s. At the time, we didn’t have anything to offer each other except friendship and support on-the-job. Yet today, those same people have become references, advisors, and in some cases, clients. Now, what would have happened if I had the opportunity to network with an even broader group of my peers early on in my career? What if geographic and corporate boundries were dropped and I had access to 1000’s of like-minded young professionals to connect with in the early stages of my career? Fast forward to today and I can only imagine how different my situation might be. Would more doors be opened to me? I have to assume they would. Not to mention, I would have most likely connected with a good number of individuals who I might not have normally felt inclined to meet. Here’s why...

#3 - The Ultimate Equalizer, a.k.a. Discrimination Elimination

When we meet someone via social media, we are forced to evaluate them based on how they interact with us on-line. In short, we focus on what they say and how they say it. Things like race, gender, sexual orientation and religion aren’t part of the equation because we are too busy reacting to the person’s virtual persona. This means that ANYONE can develop a style that gains the respect of others. If you can articulate your thoughts in a compelling and intelligent manner, you’ll connect with people on-line. In fact, your particular style will attract a like-minded set of peers. I can attest to this. I’ve been actively using social media for several years and can say that I have more than a dozen close colleagues that I’ve NEVER MET. These are people that I now e-mail for advice and even trust with helping me make professional decisions. I’ve also collaborated successfully with several of them and have found our ability to work together in a virtual capacity effortless. I recently stepped back and took a closer look at these individuals and realized that if we had all been put in a room together prior to getting to know each other online, we probably wouldn’t have tried to connect with one other. Our ages and interests vary widely. And yet, now that I’ve come to know them, I honestly can’t wait for the day when we finally meet in-person.

So, How Can YOU Become a Social Media Narcissist?

I hope this has convinced you to consider becoming a Social Media Narcissist. I tell people all the time: In today’s unpredictable job market (where EVERY job is temporary!), we are all just businesses-of-one. So, using social media to draw attention to yourself is a smart way to make sure you stay employable long-term. When it comes to job search, it’s not who you know, it’s who knows YOU!

Narcissists take pride in their physical appearance - Social Media Narcissists take pride in their online appearance. Here’s what to do:

For Those of You in Your 20s

I’d suggest heading over to BrazenCareerist.com and setting up your free account. The contributions you make there today could help you forge professional contacts that you’ll be most grateful for tomorrow. I’d also be sure your LinkedIn, Twitter, and any other social media accounts, like blogs, are consistent in their content and appearance. The sooner you build the personal brand, the quicker you’ll get noticed!

For Those of You in Your 30s, 40s and Beyond

It’s time to get up-to-speed on social media. Don’t be the dinosaur who doesn’t know how to use LinkedIn or Twitter to network. Each has their own specific use. Invest some time in getting your professional hygiene in order so you can maintain a great social media presence. If you need help with any of these tools, check these resources out: LinkedIn/Twitter.