Social networking exploded on the Internet after the launch of a dating site called Friendster, and while this created many hot-date clones it has also generated over 100 business networking and personal interest sites.
The personal interest social networking sites cover everything from baseball to photography, while the business networking sites can be general in nature, like Linkedin.com, or profession specific such as spoke.com, which caters to sales professionals around the world. Many of the sites have formal “sub networks” for special interests such as women in business, or have local geographic nets to enable people to meet in person. Regardless of your professional orientation or personal interests there is probably an online network site that could be supportive of your job hunting and career management initiatives.
Your registration will include answering a series of questions about yourself, addressing education, employers, and dates of employment, responsibilities, and interests. As the results of your answers will be published on the site as your biography (but in effect your resume), it could save time to have your resume handy to cut and paste some of the entries.
Many sites allow you to identify topics you wish to hear from people about in your bio: for example hiring people, looking for job opportunities, business and business partner opportunities, and offering advice in your area of expertise. The more areas of interest you check, the more options other people have to contact you.
If you don’t use your resume to fill out your bio, take care over your entries and make sure they include the same “keywords” you take pains to include on your resume. Just as you will search for others on the site using keywords, those members who are hiring managers, HR pros or headhunters will be searching for you through the site’s search engine, using keywords as well. When you search for contacts by keywords, you’ll want to try job titles, company names, industries and geographic locations just for starters.
With networking you aren’t only looking for people at your level with whom to network, almost anyone in your industry and/or geography can be useful regardless of title or experience, as you’ll soon see. The people of interest you find will likely fall into two basic categories; those who might hire you, and those who probably won’t hire you but who have common experience and/or interests. With the first group you will be more direct, sending an email to introduce yourself, noting that the recipient identifies himself as interested in hiring and ask him/her to look at your bio. If this proceeds to a conversation and interviews, fine, if not you can ask your contact to connect you to others in his network.
With the second group, those with similar experience and/or interests but not in a position to hire you, it’s best to build a relationship by finding common ground. You can initiate relationships by asking for advice, and many people will give you a few minutes of their time, but you will develop the best relationships by reaching out to others with help and advice, because when offer good things, forging a relationship with you becomes important to others.
The challenge then becomes how to help, advise or make an offer of same to a total stranger that is likely to have high perceived value; how to make a gesture that will encourage a relationship that shares introductions and job leads. The answer is logical and painless: use the job leads you hear about that you cannot use yourself.
It’s a not-always-so-funny thing about job hunting that you discover over the years: when you are fresh out of school no-one is hiring entry-level workers, they all want you to call back in five years. Then five years later when you happen to be job-hunting again everyone wants either someone fresh out of school or someone with ten years of experience. In your job-hunting activities you are constantly coming across needs that aren’t right for you, for any of a hundred reasons, but could be just what someone else is aching to hear about.
You take these useless-to-you leads and offer them to others as part of your introduction. Sometimes you have to send an email stating why you want to make contact, and sometimes you can make communicate immediately, it all depends on the other person’s privacy preferences. In the first instance you send an email simply stating that you have a job lead that s/he might find interesting. This is a pretty decent gesture to make to anyone and will get you lots of introductions.
In the second instance, where you are actually in direct email communication, you state your business, “I am involved in a strategic career move right now and I have come across a job that isn’t right for me, but which could be just right for you. If you’d like to talk lets exchange telephone numbers, I’ll be happy to pass the lead on, and perhaps you might have heard about something that would suit me, I am cycling out of the army and into the private sector, and have been looking for jobs in IT in the south…”
Your job hunt will have you scouring the Internet job boards and help wanted newspaper ads for job leads, and now you have a use for all those positions that aren’t quite right for you. With the job opportunities that do seem appropriate, you are faced with mailing or emailing resumes to corporate HR departments. This is another opportunity to make use of your online networks: somewhere on your networking site there may be people who work at that company now or have done in the past. Search for them by using the company name in your keyword search, then contact them and explain that you have heard about an opening at the company and are hoping to get some inside information before you apply. If you also visit the company website before any conversation you will be well informed and make a good impression on your contact.
There are any number of questions you might want to ask, but one of them will be a request for a personal introduction to the hiring manager. If that isn’t possible ask for the name of someone in HR to speak to directly, any personal contact will help advance your candidacy: because employers take personal referrals very seriously. Networking takes time, the more you reach out the better your reputation becomes and the more others will reach out to you in turn. One last word of caution, online networking is a tool, a new and seemingly very attractive tool, but a single tool nevertheless. Use it in proper combination with other job-hunting techniques.
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