Internet discussion groups, blogs and social networking sites have given networking a whole new meaning.
"Social Networking Websites work the "six degrees of separation" concept to the extreme . . . using the Internet to turn who you are, who you know, and what you know into a monster-sized spider net of connectivity." From Margaret Riley's Guide.
Blogs are e-mail based subject-specific forums, and are a wonderful way to identify potential contacts. Use a keyword internet search, or search Google Groups, Yahoo Groups, or LinkedIn Groups to find a couple of appropriate groups to subscribe to.
While joining in the discussion is a great source of information, it is also a good place to identify experts and find networking contacts. Online discussion groups have their own sets of rules and etiquette, so be sure to read each group's FAQ's before posting. Some general guidelines are:
- Take a lot of time wording your first message to the group. You may want to "lurk" reading other postings to get a sense of what is acceptable before attempting your first posting. You want to make a good first impression, not trash your name!
- E-mail specific members of the list to ask for help, rather than a message to the whole group.
- Offer to help other group members whenever possible. Networking IS a two-way street.
- Well-thought and well-written blogs on carefully selected sites can help you build a professional identity, as well as to identify good potential contacts.
- Locate two or three blogs related to your career or industry lists. Try using an internet keyword search, such as "publishing career blog." Read the recent blog postings to decide if this is a good site.
- Identify possible contacts who have posted helpful blogs.
- E-mail them directly, introducing yourself, commenting on a recent posting, and ask them for specific advice.
- You can also create your own blog. For example, create a blog on Loyola's IGNATION
- Keep the content of any posting to a blog professional. Include your thoughts and ideas on a topic, but make sure that they are on topic.
- Write regularly on the your blog or selected blogs. The entries don't have to be long. Comment on career or industry related articles you've read recently or the latest industry buzz.
- Market your blog once you have several entries. Include it on your resume, mention it in interviews and with your network.
Social networks are intended for professional networking, not merely socializing. Good sites to start with are LinkedIn, Gotta Mentor, Facebook and Twitter. There are also smaller career specific networking sites. One suggestion would be to join LinkedIn and one or two smaller networks related to your career or industry interests.
- Create a friendly profile to serve as your virtual business card. Spell check it!
- Different ways to search for profiles of possible contacts:
- Search by career field or industry
- Search by company name I if you are interested in gaining a contact at a specific company.
- Search for keywords, such as Loyola, to find Loyola alumni.
- Search for former colleagues and classmates.
- Join a group, such as the LUC-ASK Group if you are a current Loyola student or the Loyola Alumni Group if you are an alumnus/a. Many groups are based on professional interests, and can give you access to appropriate contacts.
- Get colleagues to submit recommendations to your profile.
- Update your status frequently, to let your connections known what you've been up to.
- Give yourself a professional headline.
- Facebook is probably better for connection with friends or people you already know, but can be used for networking as well.
- Post "status updates" relating to your job search to keep everyone up-to-date.
- Post Notes explaining the type of advice you are seeking. Add a note for each blog post.
- Tag your friends whenever you write a blog that mentions them, so your message is spread more quickly.
- Connect to people involved in areas of interest to you.
- Read bios of anyone you follow or who follows you to see if they work anywhere of interest.
- Search bios and URL's for companies of interest.
- Share advice with like-minded people
- Ask & answer questions
- Get matched with a mentor
- Use a free, personal email account for your networking, blogging and online discussion groups, rather than your work e-mail. You don't want to appear to be using your current employer's time on personal activities.
- Brand Yourself. As much as possible, use the same name/username on a discussion group, blog, or social networking site as you use on your resume.
- Create a professional e-mail signature that will automatically appear at the bottom of every e-mail you send. It should include all of your contact information - name, title (optional), phone number, e-mail address and fax number. Avoid any personal, overtly political, religious or humorous messages that could turn someone off.
- Be concise. Identify yourself, state why you are contacting this person, and list some of your interests. Followup. Request a follow-up to this email, via phone or email. Give your contact the choice of how to continue.
- Read Privacy practices of any discussion group, networking group, or blog before joining.
- Look for postings by someone who seems to be knowledgeable about the topic being discussed in a discussion group or blog. Note their email address at the top, and look for signature information citing their organizational affiliation, position in the organization, and more complete contact information.
- Once you have identified who you want to contact, prepare your email introductory letters very carefully. Be professional and especially polite, and double-check for grammar and spelling errors before sending your message. Send it directly to the contact, not to the group.