Mary Lorenz, CareerBuilder writer
The idea of professional networking tends to bring to mind stuffy people in business attire and name tags, standing around a table with hummus and stale carrots, trying to make awkward small talk with strangers who may or may not know of job opportunities for you.
But networking today is a lot different from what it was like a few years ago, and networking events take many forms. In fact, while in-person networking is traditionally seen as the gold standard, more and more people are reaping the benefits of online networking. Consider the following elements that make up networking in the age of smartphones and 24/7 connectivity.
Up until recently, career fairs and in-person networking events were the best ways to connect with hiring managers and meet new people who might know of job openings. But today, social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ have make it easier than ever to not only find out about new positions, but also connect and build relationships with other industry professionals. Try the following tactics to grow your network online.
- Ask for help. Unless you’re trying to keep your job search a secret, don’t be shy about letting your friends and followers know you’re in the market for a new position. Be specific about the type of position you’re looking for, and how many years of experience you have. Even if someone doesn’t know of a position right now, they may be able to refer you to someone who does.
- Clean up your profile. Just as you would try to appear as professional as possible at an in-person networking event, you want to present your best self online. After all, it’s now common practice for employers to check out candidates on social media. Go into your social media profiles and look for ways to highlight your talents and strengths. Remove any videos, photos or posts that could be perceived as less than professional.
- Ask to connect. If there’s a particular job you’re interested in, see if you can find out who posted it, and ask if you can connect online. Make sure to include a quick, personalized note about why you want to connect, so as not to come across as insincere or spammy.
- Join community groups. Consider joining Facebook or MeetUp groups that match your career interests to connect with others and find in-person events to build those relationships further.
Online portfolios, visual resumes and personal landing pages make it easier than ever to show recruiters and hiring managers that you are more than just your resume. Simply include a link to your website on your social media accounts, business cards or resume. Online portfolios aren’t just for creative types, either. If you work on cars, for example, you might post photographs of the evolution of an automobile you’ve rebuilt, along with the steps you took. Or if you’re a writer, sharing your work samples can be a great way to get eyes on your ideas. The best part? You don’t need to be a coding genius. Thanks to websites like VisualCV, Wix, Webnode and Squarespace, it’s easy and inexpensive to build your own website and highlight your skills and accomplishments.
Online networking events
Networking isn’t just about finding out about jobs, but about learning and getting career advice from people who’ve been there before you. Today, you can meet and ask questions of other industry professionals across the country from the comfort of your own home. Webinars have come a long way from static PowerPoint presentations. Most webinar platforms now have built-in chat capabilities where attendees can ask questions, make comments and engage with other attendees. Sites like BrightTALK and Webinara let you search for webinar topics that meet your interest and sign up to be notified of future events. For more immediate online networking opportunities, check out Twitter hashtag chats to engage in conversation with other like-minded individuals.
Today, building your professional networking is as easy as swiping right, thanks to the emergence of networking apps. Like dating apps, networking apps enable you to find and connect with other like-minded professionals in your area – from the convenience of your smartphone. For instance, Shapr suggests 10 to 15 people to connect with each day, based on your professional experience and interests. Swipe on the ones you want to connect with and, if the feeling is mutual, you can get in touch within seconds. Or for those who want to network at a moment’s notice, there’s CityHour, which helps you find people within a 50 mile radius who can meet in the next two hours. On the larger scale, there’s Bizzabo, which lets you search conferences in your area and then connects you with other attendees, so you can meet up at the event.
Still hesitant about networking? Check out networking events for people who hate networking events