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The way we've found jobs in America has been changing since the beginning of the internet — but now, after the isolation brought on by COVID-19 propelled us further into the claws of the web, the way we network and search for jobs has been fundamentally changed.
The pandemic hit during an already rapidly changing job search experience. But since it started started, TikTok has looked into launching its own job searching tool. (Facebook already had one.) LinkedIn is becoming more and more of a social networking tool every day, and people are using it like one: Last quarter alone, conversations on LinkedIn increased 43% and content sharing on the platform is up almost 30%, the company told Mashable. While we saw many of these trends bubbling up pre-COVID, our extended quarantine may have accelerated some of them.
"I don't think it's necessarily connected to the pandemic because this has been a secular trend over a long time," Dan Wang, an associate professor at the Columbia Business School who completed a study about LinkedIn learning in January, told Mashable. But he added that one thing has changed: How people network.
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Most people have strong ties (friends they speak to every day) and weak ties (those they speak to less frequently, and have to catch up with every time they reconnect). Because you have so much information to share with someone you may have weaker ties with, many studies suggest that those weak ties provide the most important, valuable information that lead people to find jobs that they actually want and would take on, Wang said. Enter: Reconnecting during the pandemic.
"Because the pandemic probably was an opportunity for many folks who were physically isolated to reconnect with their weak ties, that could be a source for this novel information to actually even expand their job search," Wang said.
And it's something they found on LinkedIn, too.
"Because nobody could be in person anymore, it removed a lot of the barriers and hurdles to grabbing that coffee chat," Ada Yu, the group manager for careers products at LinkedIn told Mashable. "And people started opening up their calendars to do Zoom chats, because it was so much easier. There was no commute, there was no going to a coffee shop and waiting to see if the other person would actually show up. I speak anecdotally, but [there have been] a lot more of these virtual coffee chats and mentorship sessions happening as a result [of the pandemic]."
There was no commute, there was no going to a coffee shop and waiting to see if the other person would actually show up.
Part of that, Yu said, is that there is less stigma surrounding job loss, which could have made people more likely to reach out to their communities without shame. According to the Pew Research Center, about 9.6 million U.S. workers lost their jobs during the pandemic — mass layoffs can force a social reckoning.
"Before COVID, job hunting was much more of a private activity and there was a social stigma associated with being unemployed," Yu said. "But when massive layoffs happen and people realize that, 'Hey, being unemployed isn't a factor of someone's skills or ability.' I think that stigma has been removed as a result, people are much more open to asking for help, and we've seen the community really responding."
Because of the pandemic, networking changed in a way that some believe is more global-friendly and more connected to social media than ever before.
"I don't think there's a world where we would really go back," Yu said, "because with this kind of shock to the system, I think the job seeking landscape has really forever changed."