We’ve all heard the phrase ‘It’s who you know’. Well in fact it’s not so much who you know, but who you vaguely know. In other words, most jobs and career opportunities come through people you don’t know very well -people you’ve met through networking.
Networking helps your career in many ways. In addition to exchanging information that might help you with your job, you can find mentors, learn of job opportunities, get new ideas and broaden your perspectives.
The online environment allows you to communicate more easily, quickly and widely – even internationally. So how can you network more effectively online?
Your Online Presence
Do you have an online presence? Search for your name on the Internet. You might be surprised at what you find! Consider what a potential employer might find if he or she were to search for your name. Are you pleased with what you have found? Read the following hints and tips on how to use email, discussion lists or web publications to expand your network and improve your online presence.
- Sound as if you mean business – Use a professional-sounding email address
- Introduce yourself – Don’t be afraid to email people you haven’t met. Perhaps you have just read an article, attended a presentation or read an interesting post on a discussion list. Tell the author or speaker that you enjoyed the presentation, message or article. Use your network to expand your network; ask contacts to recommend others who might help with specific questions or projects.
- Be clear – after drafting your email, re-read it carefully to make sure it sounds coherent, professional and accurate.
- Nurture your relationships – stay connected with your contacts. Email them periodically to ask how they are doing and to let them know what you are up to. Staying in touch helps others remember you when they hear of opportunities that might interest you.
- Subscribe – Find appropriate discussion lists through friends, colleagues, publications, professional associations and websites.
- Prevent email overload – Manage your discussion list email do that it doesn’t take over your inbox. Set up email filters for each discussion list so that mail will be filed in a folder instead of in your inbox.
- Listen before you speak – Lurk for a while before you begin posting on a list. Learn what topics are discussed, what the tone of the list is and who the active posters are before you say too much.
- Be an active participant – Posting relevant and thoughtful messages can help you establish name recognition and credibility in your field. It can also lead to new opportunities.
- Consider your goals – When publishing something online, decide first what you want to achieve. Do you want to provide potential employers with an online version of your CV to prove that you have web editing skills? Do you want to share personal opinions? Your purpose may determine the type of web publication you create.
- Make it accessible – Check your web resource in various Internet browsers to be sure it looks the way you intended.
General Do’s and Dont’s
- Be Professional – Consider everything you say to be public. Use common sense when posting to a discussion list or emailing someone. Think carefully before criticizing your boss or workplace for example. Remember that email is easily forwarded and discussion lists are often archived online. Don’t say anything you wouldn’t want to broadcast publicly.
- It’s not only what you say, it’s how you say it – Since email messages lack nonverbal cues, re-read your message before sending it to be sure if sounds professional and courteous.
- Don’t clutter other people’s email boxes – Don’t forward junk email such as jokes or possible hoaxes
- Keep it simple – Use easy to read fonts and colours in your email messages. Include a simple, professional signature file. Design websites that are logical to navigate and include a contact method.
- Be safe – Be careful how much personal information you share online. Some experts recommend setting up a separate email address for networking and eliminating personal information connected with that account.
- Thinking of others – Demonstrate your willingness to help others succeed. If you see something that might interest one of your contacts, pass it on. Connect people to help them expand their networks. You may soon become knows as ‘someone who knows people’. Be courteous, say thank you. Others will appreciate your thoughtfulness and may return the favour someday.