If You Wouldn't Eat Cereal With a Fork, Why Would You Use Social Media for a Job Search?

08/14/2013 03:13 pm ET Updated Oct 14, 2013

Chances are in coming days someone will write an article touting the benefits of Snapchat for finding a job.

If you haven't heard of Snapchat it's a photo sharing service that allows users to send photos for a limited time before they are destroyed. How would that help you find a job? I have no idea. However, neither Twitter nor Pinterest are useful job search techniques, and still they are recommended by some.

Some social media tools simply do not apply to the job search. It's like using a fork to eat cereal -- theoretically it could be done, but neither effectively nor efficiently.

The job search of 20 years ago was fairly straightforward. Print out your resume and cover letter on nice paper at Kinko's and then mail them to potential employers. It took time, effort, and money, but it was clear-cut. Career coaches generally agreed on what to do and in what order.

That's no longer the case. Technology has given job seekers many more options, but frustratingly none are as effective (or as trusted) as the old mail and wait approach from a couple of decades ago.

As the technologies have multiplied, career advice has as well. More notably, it diverged. All career coaches still agree on some basic principles, like the importance of resumes and informational interviews, but ask a group of career coaches about Twitter and you'll get a host of different opinions.

As a career coach at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, I see firsthand the mental toll this decision anxiety takes on job seekers. They are given a stream of tips and new resources to consider when all they really want is one proven solution. It's exhausting and it fills job seekers with self-doubt at a time when projecting confidence is crucial. All the advice can also lead to procrastination as job seekers try to figure out what works. That is time that could be better used by actually searching with proven techniques.

As a career coach, I strive to teach right-tech rather than high-tech. For example, I can't stress enough the importance of connecting to the right people in a job search. Develop a list of employers you are interested in and try to find people in those places who might help you. LinkedIn makes this incredibly easy. Find a contact, join a group he or she belongs to that corresponds to your target industries, functions, and locations, and you've just earned the ability to directly email them for free through the group's members page. You may need to kiss a few frogs to find your prince/princess, but nothing good ever offers a 100 percent success rate.

So, job seekers, my advice to you is to take a break from reading job search advice articles promoting the next new fad. Let all the other job seekers be guinea pigs for the new technologies hitting the market. If it works, word will spread, and it won't take the form of urban legends such as that the current job search success stories of Pinterest, Twitter, and Vine.