Networking used to mean lots of face-to-face time meeting people at workshops and conventions, making calls, handing out business cards, and asking friends for introductions. While this is still true, the social web has added many new ways to build and cultivate your network. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Pinterest make it easy to make connections, but how do you get the most from them? These guidelines will help you network professionally and advance your career at the same time.
Develop your professional presence
Whether it’s on your blog or your Google+ profile, keep in mind that what you put online reflects who you are. Potential contacts may find your profile online and judge you based on what they read. Develop your profile to work for your advantage. Every time you post, ask yourself how it would look to a future employer. If something is personal, keep it private by adjusting your privacy settings or not posting it at all. You want people to be impressed with what they learn about you online.
Customize your content
Joining every new social networking site may seem like a great way to develop your online presence, but it’s important to take the time to learn how sites work and not spread yourself too thin. If your Twitter feed and Facebook status updates are exactly the same, why should people follow you in both places? Why not create a Pinterest board about your job search, or one that highlights the skills outlined on your resume? By customizing your content for each site, your readers will see that you’re not just jumping on the social web bandwagon. People interested in what you have to say will follow you in multiple places to get to know you better.
In-person is still in style
While you may use your online presence to develop your professional presence, it’s still important to meet people face to face. When you meet someone in person, you can convey more information rapidly. Eye contact, facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language all help build rapport. Remember though, online communication gives you time to consider your responses—a luxury you won’t have in person. Have a clear idea of your objectives before each meeting, and listen carefully, so you can respond thoughtfully and improve your chances to make a good impression.
Help others and help yourself
When you’re seen as a contributor, people will want to learn more about you. Networking is a two-way street. If you’re perceived as always asking for something but never offering anything, people will soon ignore you. If you’re willing to help people, they will remember that willingness in the future. Social networks are called online communities for a reason. You should always be looking for ways to give back to the community.
When we use social networking in our private lives to connect with family and friends, those connections often lack the level of professionalism expected in the business world. When someone helps you online, don’t forget to show that you appreciate it by thanking them. You can also link to their site in a blog post or re-tweet an insightful comment they made. If someone tells you something in confidence, show that you respect them by not publishing it. Don’t be pushy or abuse friendships. If you say you’re going to do something, do it. You are developing your presence, but always remember your reputation counts, too.
The social web may have changed how networking is done, but it hasn’t changed why people do it. While networking is still about building relationships that can advance your career, your use of the social web should be professional and carefully managed.
Online networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Google+ make it easy to establish connections, but once you’ve done that how do you make the most of them? This PDF shows tips that will help you optimize your professional network and advance your career at the same time.