Guanxi vs. Social Networking

If you ask a Chinese person how to get a job, they’d say guanxi. Use your connections — parents, friends, etc. The instances of the son of a friend getting a job despite iffy qualifications are numerous but guanxi often gives informal access where formal access doesn’t exist. Compare the conception of meritocracy in America. If you meet the qualifications, you have a good chance of getting a job. And it’s not as if guanxi doesn’t exist in the U.S. or merit-based selection doesn’t exist in China, but these are good ideas to keep in mind when searching for a job.

I have been on both sides of that equation. But, to be honest, I much prefer the thought that I earned a position, thanks to my own ability and experience. I guess I like the idea that I can control my own future under a strict meritocracy.

With all the time I spent studying and actively using social media, I’m interested in the question of whether online social networks can count as a form of guanxi. Can I really rely on, or perhaps just use, these online ties to people I’ve never met to help me find a job? It’s a scary thought. But it somehow makes sense considering I am looking into careers in social media.

Online social network ties are probably not as strong as some guanxi ties and instead are “weak ties” (citation to a malcolm gladwell type researcher). The question is  what does an expanding set of weak ties get you? Furthermore, how do you approach your weak ties with job information. My every tweet on Twitter is not about my job search. My every facebook interactions is not about finding work. How do you put the word out without blasting your weak ties with your personal job ads?

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