You may have already discovered that the internet is a great place to research networking events, people and organizations. You may also use the internet to connect with friends and family through social networking sites. However, many people neglect to make the internet a center for actual networking with other individuals on a professional level. Although person to person contact is still vital in networking, the internet has certainly emerged as a great way to make introductions to other career-oriented individuals and discuss mutual opportunities.
A great way to get started in networking online is to join a professional networking site such as LinkedIn or Xing. These sites are set up specifically for professionals to connect with each other. They include groups you can join to directly meet others in your industry, from your alma mater, or your local area. They may introduce topics for discussion to help spur conversation between you and others, and can provide a great way to get to know people before meeting them in person. Research online to find the best professional networking sites for you to join, and pick the top three that would work for your networking goals.
Other venues online that can provide a good forum for meeting people are professional associations, your college alumni site, and professional publications. Most sites have discussion boards for members, and provide information on the individuals who participate. These can be fruitful for both research and for making introductions. Do your research and find sites where there is a lot of activity, and a high number of participants. This will make sure that there is enough activity to make your participation worthwhile, as well as enough participants to provide opportunities for meeting and discussion.
Another great way to meet people and attract attention is to contribute to a high visibility professional site or publication. Most sites are dying for content and will accept any proposition for assistance. If you offer to write a weekly blog, an article, a white paper, or serve as a mediator for a discussion board, you can put yourself in the center of the action which provides a wealth of connections. This is also a great way to start building your reputation in your industry as an expert or major contributor, and can also simultaneously assist you in building a portfolio for your resume.
A good tip for healthy online networking is to make sure you are consistently contributing. Whichever sites you choose to invest your time in, be sure that you are checking them at least once a day and contributing something whether it be simply a comment on a blog, or introducing yourself to another member. Building trust and partnership online requires that you be present frequently for advice, conversation, or response. You can often connect these sites to your mobile device in order to receive notifications that can help you manage a timely response.
Another good tip is to be diligent about separating your professional life from your personal life. Many of us use social networking for our personal endeavors. However, this may be inappropriate or too personal for professional connections to see. For example, Facebook is a common place for us to connect with friends and family. Often times we share religious, political, and personal views, or funny personal pictures that we would otherwise not share with those we do business with. Pursuing professional relationships through Facebook is not a bad idea, but you may want to create another profile specifically for that activity, keeping your personal life separate from your professional life.
The beauty of online networking is that it does not require a tremendous amount of time and is highly flexible. You don’t have to commute to a location, get dressed up, or have business cards handy. You don’t have to be online at a certain time to contribute. Most interactions online are extremely short and sweet. You can squeeze these into a lunch hour, a morning break, or a train ride home. If done correctly, they can produce just as many connections and opportunities as attending an important event.
Articles on how to leverage LinkedIn:
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