Introduction to Social Networking

A typical career spans half a century, and in that time you can reasonably expect the good the bad and the downright ugly to occur in your professional life.

It’s the rough times when you need people, and networking, with its focus on talking to friends and colleagues it offers a great job-hunting technique that also lessens the feelings of rejection everyone suffers through on a job hunt. Nevertheless, it fails for many job hunters because those networks lack relevance and depth.
A new rage on the Internet that has real relevance to all of us in building deeper, more relevant networks is “social networking.” It revolves around online networks built on your professional expertise and incorporating common experiences or interests. I just plugged in the word “army” at a social networking site (looking for a common background with others) and got over 2000 profiles that share that common experience, and then “technology”, for where I am headed in my career change and got 39,000 profiles. Both of these potential networks would have relevance to my job hunt, but it got even better when I combined both the keywords as “army and technology” and got 980 people who shared both an important life experience with me, and who had already made the transition somewhere into the profession of my intent. The whole process took ten minutes to sign up and thirty minutes to understand how it works, this isn’t brain surgery!

Social networking sites bring an ability to connect with anyone within the grasp of everyone, by speeding the process of gaining connections through who you know , what you know, and who knows you, all the way to that person you really need to know right now.

The first and most famous social networking site was Friendster, which helps you get a date; its success has spawned sites that focus on networking professional relationships, rather than a steamy Friday night. These professionally oriented sites allow you to post biographies that can include skills, employers, educational history and any other information you think might be helpful to your professional goals; all as part of a profile that works just like a resume but without that “I’m for sale sign.” For job hunters and career changers it is a genuinely new approach, where you can network, and simultaneously be visible in places where employers and recruiters also happen to be swarming for recruitment purposes.

Online social networking can help you get useful introductions to people throughout the country and the world; people who might know of jobs at their own company or be able to give you introductions to friends at companies that do have openings. Based on the “small world theory’ first expressed by an American sociologist, and popularized by the “six degrees of separation” phrase, social networking is proving that we really are all connected, and if not directly, then through friends and friends of friends. This new application of technology enables anyone to reach out to an endless horizon of relevant networking contacts.

It works quite simply, you join a social networking site (with a few like Linkedin you have to wangle an invitation), fill out a profile for yourself, and you are ready to go. You can network without the benefit of personal contacts, but if you in turn invite a selection of your own trusted contacts to join the same site, your connectivity grows exponentially. The inherent benefit of these networks is that if everyone invites just a few competent and trusted friends to join, the endlessly expanding network becomes a trusted resource, like an old boy network for the rest of us.

For employers and recruiters, networking sites are seen as a reliable pathway to the passive job seeker. For a job-hunter or career changer, it’s a reliable pathway to jobs through the people connected to them. You can search a site’s database by postal code, job title, company or other keywords of your choice. The resultant search tells you how many people match your requirements and then allows you to initiate contact directly or through the chain of people who connect you.

The nature of the Internet is global, so all sites naturally have global reach. Ecademy.com, from Haselmere, while obviously serving Great Britain has 30-40% of its membership from overseas, and is capitalizing on this by opening sites serving other countries: U.S., India, Japan and so on. This makes both Ecademy and all the other sites especially useful when relocation might be in your plans; the postal code option will be of especial use when you want to move from the rainy Highlands to the sunny south coast, or make connections locally. ViaDuc.com from France caters to French speakers around the world, and OpenBC.com with its five languages hopes to attract users with a European Union focus. In a global economy, people with language skills have a special edge, so sites like these latter two examples can help you leverage that skill with any global company searching for multi-cultural awareness in its employees.

Spoke.com attracts people in sales, and Ryze.com has members from more than a hundred countries. Linkedin has half its members in the US and half scattered around the globe, while Tickle.com is for people who are examining career choice and change outside of their current fields.

Social networking sites also offer an array of useful services that enable your networking activities:

  • Reminders of when to follow up with a call or email to nurture your relationships.
  • Message boards and forums for common interest groups.
  • Links to job boards.
  • Off line social events to meet and mingle in person.

With the exception of Ryze.com just about all of the social networking sites are free right now, but this will change as their validity is proven. Linkedin has recognized that companies and entrepreneurs already pay for finding employees and business partners, so you can assume that sooner rather than later these sites will charge for membership and for some of their search services; but for the moment most of them are free.

You are likely to find them especially valuable when you know a career transition is coming. For example, if you know you are cycling out of the military, you will have time to build a global network of ex-brothers-in-arms, every one of which will be there ready to reach out with a helping hand.

We will look at how to maximize the impact of your online social networking next time. In the meantime, check into suitable social networking sites, join a handful and invite some of your trusted colleagues to follow your example. Belonging to online social networks can have a long-term beneficial career impact, but only when you make the time to nurture the networks you build, because as you know, effective networking is about much more than “gimme.”

Join Martin every week to learn more about writing a killer resume, getting more job interviews and turning job interviews into job offers at his free weekly webcast, Mondays at noon central. Details: http://my.knockemdead.com

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