How Lurking Could Get You the Job

Is ‘lurking’ in online communities a bad thing, can it help you get the job you want and what’s the connection with employability?

In recent years, there has been an accepted ratio of how many people engage in online communities known as the 90:9:1 rule – 90% join but ‘lurk’ silently and don’t participate, 9% comment and 1% create or instigate, which some are arguing is shifting to 70:20:10.

The unspoken criticism is that passivity rules.  But here’s the heart-warming story of Rachel (not her real name) who turned lurking to her career advantage.

“I’ve been lurking in this group for a while now. I feel like I’m learning something new every day….I recently interviewed for, and landed, a great new full time job as a librarian in a brand new campus of a careertechnical school. What I have absorbed through active “listening” (of this online community) allowed me to share my positive attitude and ideas about learning via social media in an educational setting. Had I not had this opportunity, I might not have the new job so THANKS to all for being willing to share what you know….

I’ve barely had time to keep up with the conversations, never mind respond. I do feel strongly about social media even though I’m still new to the scene and I don’t have a fancy job title that incorporates my interest or desire to improve.  I really believe that we are in changing times and wonder often how we are going to assess this new form of learning when it comes to careers.  I have a good academic resume and I work hard, but a lot of the information shared here is so new to me, and I feel like I probably spend an inordinate amount of time following every link – with each one taking me to something new and interesting that I hadn’t thought of before… Like an idiot sometimes I read everything …so I don’t follow any conversations/threads in particular… but I do follow most of the links to articles to read and to recommended websites and books. And it was that silent following and exploring that gave me the background to really shine at the interview ….and I know there were surely librarians interviewing that had a lot more experience than me…

It would be very interesting to be able to measure “lurking” – but I cannot imagine how. It’s kind of like trying to measure how much info a person gets from reading a book – it will depend on the individual and the reason behind reading. If someone is motivated to lurk to find an answer, (like me) – it’s very useful…”

I love the way Rachel has articulated her reflective learning. She has demonstrated wonderfully what developing one’s employability really means – it’s more than just getting a job – and her passion has clearly shone through at the interview. You can learn much from reading what others share.  Engaging through social media can be learned and is essential in today’s world for your future employability.  Like Rachel, you just have to show relentless curiosity and remember to be you.

And what about the term ‘lurker’? Surely it’s misleading, conjuring up passivity, timidity and anonymity (erroneously IMHO). Yet, Rachel’s example shows that it can be active, positive and assertive in terms of consequent behavior.

Can you think of a better word than lurking?



About the Author: David Shindler is the author of “Learning to Leap, a Guide to Being More Employable”. An experienced coach and  people development expert, David specialises in developing and accelerating employability. He also runs the Employability Hub (a social learning community and resource centre), the Learning to Leap group on LinkedIn and Facebook fan page. Tweet him @David_Shindler or contact him via his website.



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