The perils of infinite access (why doors close)
[box title="Note"] This is an advance excerpt from The Social Media Side Door, my book about the ways social media has rewritten the rules of access and influence. Subscribe to receive more excerpts, tips, and side door strategies.[/box]
[dropcap]O[/dropcap]pen doors create inefficiency. Each person that walks through them requires attention in some form or another, a resource that’s easily exhausted. Lines are formed. Credentials are screened more closely. Contact information is pulled from websites. Access is constricted and streamlined by gatekeepers to make sure that people, requests and time are managed in a way that prevents total meltdown. People understand this intuitively—when everyone wants something finite, not everyone can get it. But they still want it.
The world relies on gatekeepers even more heavily during times of uncertainty and crisis. When more people are calling in favors, digging deeper into their contacts, and seeking the kinds of jobs they once balked at, the front door is reinforced to compensate. It’s rarely done cheerfully, or with disdain for those seeking entry. Front doors are narrowed and shut especially tight in light of facts like this one: the 12,511,000 recession-era college graduates in the United States are doing everything they can to walk through them, and they can’t all fit. Eighty-three applicants for every graduate-level opening in the UK means that companies are forced to reevaluate every aspect of their hiring practices, down to the paper their rejection notices are printed on.
1,000,000. That’s the number of job applications Google receives per year for its 6,000 annual openings, according to The Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Of course, anyone familiar with Google’s workplace culture and legacy of innovation would expect a ratio like this. But it’s not just bleeding-edge tech jobs that are generating amazing levels of interest. A Ford plant in Louisville received nearly 17,000 applicants for 1,800 new jobs, a ratio of 9.4 jobseekers for every opening. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, at the beginning of the recession, “the number of unemployed persons per job opening was 1.8,” while the ratio at the official end of the recession (June 2009) had risen to “6.1 unemployed persons per job opening.”
Success requires more and more gatekeeping to keep systems humming. A small business doesn’t need call centers to service customers; this is the agitating byproduct of a company’s successful scaling to a point where access needs to be limited or diverted to allow other areas of the business to operate without distraction. Similarly, actors that haven’t yet “made it” are eager for inquiries, and make sure their direct contact information is found easily. Working actors divert inquiries to publicists and agents, whose job, in part, is to guard access to their clients. You may be able to get a meeting with your county commissioner, but very few can get one with the governor. And it’s easy to forget that this is generally a good thing—we want people that have the capacity to make big decisions to be able to focus; we don’t want the yelling cat lady that ruins every town hall meeting to have weekly one-on-ones with Jack Welch.
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