Last week I wrote about the right and wrong ways to network. But today, successful networking is more than just exchanging business cards at cocktail parties. Online tools like LinkedIn, Doostang, and Facebook are an important part of a solid networking strategy.
Here are five tips for leveraging online networking tools in your career.
Back the Winner, and Focus Your Effort – We Web users are fickle when it comes to social networking sites. Anyone remember Friendster? It soared and then soured as MySpace, and now Facebook, took over as kings of the hill.
Make sure you’re networking in the right place, and keep your ear to the ground for the best place to connect with potential employers.
Then, choose the social networking site that best aligns with your career goals, and focus your efforts there. Here’s a hint: LinkedIn is probably the most widely used professional networking site, though Facebook can be good for recent grads. Doostang is by invite only and focuses on careerists with elite degrees and advanced skills.
Be Proactive – Just as if you were at a real life swizzle, don’t expect everybody to talk to you – or befriend you. Use social networking site tools to cull your inbox for contacts – or seek them out yourself – and ask them to link up with you. For professional contacts, it helps to send a brief, personalized email first, saying “I saw your profile on LinkedIn and am going to request you connect with me. I hope you do!”
Polish Your Profile – When you use social networking professionally, your profile becomes your online resume, so write it accordingly. Feel free to highlight your interests, but leave out the photos of your five-year fraternity reunion. Don’t forget to fully describe your academic and professional accomplishments, and to spell check!
If you aiming for a specific job, make tweaks that highlight why you would be a good fit for the position – just as you would with your resume.
Don’t Push – There is a difference between a phone call to inquire about potential career opportunities in a contact’s organization and daily calls to see if anything has changed. Don’t be an online pest, either. People use social networking differently, and just because somebody hasn’t added you or responded to a message you sent may not mean they are ignoring you. If you really want to contact somebody and they haven’t responded through a networking site in a couple of weeks, consider another avenue.
Give Back – Don’t just use social networking selfishly. Look for ways to help other people in your network, or even others you don’t know. Provide career advice, forward job opportunities, and connect with people who are up and coming in your current organization or at past employers. Remember that old adage: they could be your boss someday.
Have you used social networking effectively to forward your career? What tips do you have for others leveraging LinkedIn, Doostang, or other sites in their job search?