Socially Network Your Way to a Promising Future

I sat down with Neal Schaffer, an internationally-recognized social networking guru, to get his take on Web 2.0 technologies and online education.  Read on to learn how to leverage both mediums to skyrocket your career.

1.  What is your occupation?

I am a social networking author, speaker and consultant.  My background has been in high tech sales and business development in Asia, and I am fluent in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese.  I became a heavy user of social media during my recent time in transition and finished writing my book before I found a new job!  But my experience in Asia and in sales has had a profound impact on how I look at social media and social networking, giving me a unique and hopefully insightful way of looking at and teaching others about these technologies.

2.  Which academic credentials do you have?

I have a Bachelor of Arts from Amherst College.  I was an Asian Studies major and then spent the majority of my career in Asia.  I never went to business school, and my approach to my past and current job is to immerse myself in something and learn as much as I can about it in the shortest time by doing it.  So far I have come out OK, but maybe it was that liberal arts education that gave me the ability to easily absorb and process new information as well as connect, network, and teach people not only about products that I have sold, but about social networking in general.

3.  You're very involved in social media, and have a book coming out on Amazon.com shortly.  What role do you think social media plays in the business world today?

Social media is becoming increasingly important in the business world. The emergence of the Internet leveled the playing field for businesses and created radical changes in many companies and in the way we do business.  We are still feeling the effects of these changes: look at the newspapers that are going out of business because they can't compete with online media.

The second Internet revolution is Web 2.0, where social media has been created.  It is about the users, not the media, creating the content.  It has profound impacts on how companies support their customers, protect their brand image, and engage with potential new customers.   The number of people flocking to these sites has created a potentially lucrative medium for them.  If Facebook was a country, with 300 million members, it would be the third largest in the world!  That's a huge market that businesses don't want to ignore!

4. Do you know anyone who has earned their degree online, or who has taken classes online?  Given your expertise with social media and its power, how do you feel about online, distance learning?

My sister-in-law got her online degree, and I know many people who take or have taken online classes.  Social media actually has fueled micro-learning websites that provide webinars or recorded YouTube videos on learning more about social networking or a range of social media-related topics.  Online degree programs are extremely convenient:  you can do it anywhere at any time.  There are niche topics that are being offered online that you just can't find at your local community college.  I have looked into the potential of collaborating with an online university to create a social media curriculum as I think it can, should, and will be done successfully.

5.  Can you highlight a few points from your book that will help communicate your philosophy when it comes to advancing your career?

My upcoming book "Windmill Networking: Understanding, Leveraging & Maximizing LinkedIn" is really a users-manual for LinkedIn through a social networking lens.  It has a lot of relevant information to help you advance your career.  The most important thing to realize is that you are your own company.  Your career is how you generate your income.  Your brand is the future potential revenue for your career.  Career management through personal branding and online networking is now vital for EVERY working professional, and that is the heart of what the book teaches. 

Social networking sites like LinkedIn give you the ability to dig a very targeted well before you are thirsty.  Don't just register there and fill out your profile: engage and meet new people!  Networking is about meeting people you DON'T already know.  Always remember to "Pay It Forward" and help others before asking for help yourself.  It is the slogan of a new generation of social networkers that will help you genuinely connect and develop relationships with people who you may be able to help or who can provide assistance to you sometime in the future.

6. With this economy, do you feel that graduate degrees, whether earned online or on campus, give employees an edge during a rough job  market?

A graduate degree is a nice to have addition to your brand.  Depending on the choice of career, it may be essential to have one.  But work experience is equally, if not even more, important.  A combination of the two is ideal.  So if you are having a hard time finding a job, going online to acquire a new degree or certification is a smart thing to do to try to better your chances of finding your next job.  But the degree or certificate alone will not guarantee you the job, so I think you still need to be looking and, more importantly, networking!


Neal Schaffer is an internationally recognized social networking guru helping companies and individuals embrace social media for personal and business applications. His experience in creating the Windmill Networking bloga social networking world that has become so vast in one year that it constitutes one of the widest read LinkedIn blogs world-wide—resulted in this book. Schaffer is a highly sought-after speaker and consultant noted for his energetic and passionate presentations. His development of Windmill Networking and the LinkedIn potential parallels two decades of success in sales and business development in the technology sector, concentrating on the Asia-Pacific region. He is the former Director of Sales, Asia Pacific East for Datapath, and Regional Vice President of Asia Pacific Sales for Espial. He earned a Bachelor of Arts from Amherst College in Asian Studies and is fluent in Chinese and Japanese. He resides with his wife and two children in Newport Beach, CA. 

Connect with Neal Schaffer on LinkedIn.