6 ways to work the web to find work
The old adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” has never rung so true. With more and more qualified people competing for the same job or piece of business, connections count more than ever.
These days, it’s not enough to pay attention to the old rules of networking: attending conventions and association meetings in your industry, speaking at or otherwise participating in local events.
Today, you need to keep up connections online, too, whether to make your current position more secure, lay the foundation for a promotion or raise, develop a small business or find a new job.
Here are 6 ways to make networking work for you.
Audit your assets. Even if you’re the world’s worst networker, you know dozens of people in your field – current and former coworkers, people at competing firms you’ve met over the years. Gather names, e-mails and other contact info for all of them, using the Notes section of your online address book to keep tabs – projects you completed together, their latest professional news, even kids’ names and other personal information you might forget between contacts.
Create an online persona. Join a career networking site like LinkedIn, which has 35 million registered users in 170 different industries. If there are networking sites specific to your field, sign up there too. And check out Facebook; more and more people are using it for professional contacts (just resist the urge to post those super-fun half-clad party pictures). Craft your online profile with care; think of it as a billboard selling you. Make sure the most recent, most important info is at the top, so people don’t have to scroll down to see it. If there’s an opportunity to add a one-line description, as at LinkedIn, write it with an eye toward what a prospective employer would want to know; it’s your tagline, so make it pithy and memorable. Post a photo that projects friendliness and professionalism.
Build your base. Now that you’re established online, begin to connect with the people on your assets list. Participate in discussions and message boards that acquaint you with a larger group. As always, behave as if your online activities were being broadcast to everyone you know; resist shameless self-promotion, such as broadcasting minor news to all your contacts – this isn’t Twitter — and don’t take cheap shots at other people on discussion boards. As you add more people to your roster of contacts, be sure they’re people you want to be in touch with. If you’re invited by people you don’t want to add, Liz Ryan, a guru of networking 2.0, recommends simply not replying rather than rejecting them.
Nurture two-way relationships. Be as willing to give as to take. Offer to help someone else with a problem or project, and be generous in sharing your own knowledge. It will burnish your reputation and cast you in people’s mind as someone to be contacted, called upon. Request informational interviews with people who can help, rather than job interviews. Avoid putting people on the spot.
Use job boards wisely. It can be tempting to burn up a lot of hours answering ads on the mega sites like monster.com and careerbuilder.com. You send out oodles of resumes and it feels productive. Randall Hansen, Ph.D., founder of Quintessential Careers, warns that unless you do it wisely, job hunting online can be a “black hole” because you’re competing against an avalanche of other applicants. He suggests fine-tuning your search by cruising company-specific sites, or using clearinghouse sites like indeed.com, which scour other sites to pull up job postings based on location and job description.
Don’t neglect face-to-face networking. Think of the web as your superhighway, where you can quickly update lots of people about your activities and goals. But don’t neglect the tried-and-true. Look for useful contacts at the gym, at your college alumni association, your book club, the local library – anyplace you spend time with like-minded folk. The degree-of-separation rule works here. The sister-in-law of your tennis partner may be looking for somebody just like you to add to her staff.