I think we all have proverbial Canaries in the Coal Mine- signs, harbingers of good tidings or doom, indicators of larger trends- things we look to or for to tell us what’s happening on a more macro level in the world.  I certainly have my own- the things I look to to tell me what’s going on and help me predict trends before they start picking up speed.

Being involved with social media for some time, Twitter provides some real-time trending topics, but this is still sometimes a microscopic view of how people who have opted in to Twitter and social media view things, not very indicative of the wider populous as a whole.   In contrast, groups like Help a Reporter Out, where journalists and freelancers are seeking sources for stories they are working on, gives you an idea of what people are thinking is newsworthy, long before the articles ever appear, based on the queries alone.  Likewise, if you look to the want ads, you can often get a sense of what’s happening and what kind of help people are looking for- what businesses are growing, and which are slumping.

To that point, the Sunday New York Times is as good a place as any to test these waters.  Being involved in social media, I thought I’d see if there was anyone looking for this skill set, and how they were advertising their jobs.  What I found is that what someone looking for a job involving social media is probably composing job searches that may be missing a lot of opportunities that might be available, simply because the vocabulary used is different.

For example, many friends of mine have jobs and titles like “community evangelist” or “community manager” for their new media jobs, but few companies are looking for that isolated skill set.  For example, one ad in the Times is looking for a “Business Development Manager”, which includes “plan, advise, implement and oversee advertising and marketing; anayse marketing trends, collect and classify customer preferences”- all things that are easily done, in part, with an online strategy.  However, I’m not sure many of the people I know with great social media expertise would consider applying for this position, although they might be perfect for it.

In contrast, an ad for a community service manager is geared toward preparing budgets and financial reports and communicating with Taiwanese community groups.  The ads for computers involve largely coding jobs and software development for Bloomberg; There’s an ad for a consultant for clients in the “media and entertainment industry” that may or may not work well for some people, although I loved the ad for a Director of Integrated Marketing Analytics, with degree requirements that might eliminate the exact skill set they are really looking for. Likewise, many of the “Market research analyst”‘ positions advertised could be filled on a consulting basis by new media firms like The Advance Guard.  My favorite was the “News Website Producer” that Fox News is looking for, but they are only looking for people with at least 2 years experience at a major national news network.  In the meantime, I know easily 10 online video production people who would be brilliant at this job, based on their web experience alone, but they don’t have the previous experience and major networks.

So the first Canary in the Coal Mine is that there are jobs out there, and some interesting ones at that, but the vocabulary being used by the person writing the ad and the vocabulary used by people with the skill set they need are entirely different- like speaking english versus Russian- the vocabulary is different, the syntax is different, as if the alphabet.

The second canary is the page after, listing the bankruptcy auctions about to take place.  Businesses big and small are liquidating.  A Party gym and arcade is selling off all their gear, as are several restaurants, Roche Molecular systems, including all the gear necessary to run a pretty sophisticated lab; even the intellectual property for the Pleo Robotic Dinosaur is up for auction.  While it’s an opportunity to pick up some treasurers- and many of the auctions have an online component as well- it’s a sign that the first wave of bankruptcies are just really getting rolling, and they aren’t discriminating based on size of the industry.

The point of this post is this-  figuring out what’s going on in the larger world, finding a job, or looking for economic trends or opportunities may require that you think creatively and explore opportunities that don’t meet your initial search terms.  The vocabulary you use and those of the people writing the ads and descriptions may not be an exact Google match- you’re going to have to get creative and spend time exploring non-traditional places, and you may come up with some real gems you never would have found otherwise.