Post by Julie Remington and Shirley Fenlason
Even though networking is a very effective job search method, it can be daunting to pick up the phone or walk into a room and start talking. Online networking offers another way to reach a large group of people who can power up your job search.
Networking is essentially communicating with others, whether in person or online, about your job search and career goals. By connecting with your network of friends, family, neighbors, former co-workers, supervisors, etc., and also their contacts, you reach a pool of people who increase the odds of turning up information about job prospects.
The goal is to ask your network for ideas, contacts in different organizations or industries, and recommendations of other people to talk to. Offering your help in exchange is a good practice. To focus communications with your network, jot down these points before you connect:
- What kind(s) of job(s) you are looking for
- The skills and experience you have for these jobs
- Specific companies or industries you want to connect with
- Which local area you are focused on
- What information would help in your search, that your contact would be likely to have
- How to ask for the information you want
Use social media for online networking
Online networking starts with creating your profile on key social media sites, then reaching out to others. Both job seekers and employers use social media sites to learn about each other and communicate about opportunities.
Recent research shows that 52 percent of employers use social media to look for new employees. These range from major corporations, to smaller companies and non-profits. They also use social media to research candidates they have already identified. More than 35 percent of employers who participated in the survey said they are less likely to interview a job candidate if they cannot find information about her or him online, so having an online presence is definitely to your advantage.
What are recruiters looking for? Employers were impressed by postings about career, volunteer, and social engagement work, and seeing evidence of creativity, communication skills, and a professional image. They were turned off by postings involving alcohol or drug use, inappropriate photos, profanity, discriminatory comments, and badmouthing a previous employer.
Social media tools
The most-used social media sites are LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. You could start your online networking by exploring these sites if you’re not already on them.
LinkedIn is used by over 400 million people to keep up-to-date about their industry or career, and find job openings. You can use LinkedIn to:
- Create and maintain an online profile that describes your education, training, skills, career goals, and work experience.
- Establish relationships by connecting with other LinkedIn users and share information.
- Join LinkedIn groups in your industry, or create your own networking group. Groups are a good place to ask questions and learn about job leads.
Facebook, with more than 1.5 billion users, has been primarily a tool to share personal information. However, it is increasingly used to connect with friends about job contacts and career information.
- Keep privacy settings as high as possible to avoid the risk of employers seeing private information, and potentially hurting your job prospects.
- Keep your profile and online behavior clean of any posts, comments, language, photos, or online games that could give an employer a poor impression of you.
Twitter, with 320 million active monthly users, allows you to follow other Twitter users and search their posts (called tweets) for job openings, or send a link to your resume or website in some of your tweets.
From your Twitter account home page, you can search tweets using the # symbol (hashtag) followed by a keyword or phrase that describes what you are looking for. Tweeters “tag” their messages to make searching easier. You can also click on a hashtag in a tweet. Twitter will pull up all the recent tweets with that hashtag. Common hashtags used by job seekers are:
Blogs are a common way for people and companies to get information out. Search for blogs that keep you up-to-date about your career or industry by using your favorite browser and entering related terms.
Online networking tips
Most sites only let you see or add content after you’ve created an account. To manage your account effectively, keep these tips in mind:
- Only post comments, photos, and videos you would feel OK about an employer seeing.
- Check your grammar and spelling.
- Think of everything you put online as public information.
- Google search your name to see what comes up on the Internet; clean it up if need be.
- Scams for fake job positions, training, or job search help may be posted; try checking for website user reviews, and read the “About Us” section to learn about the website sponsor.
- For online group discussions, review previous posts and read available FAQs to familiarize yourself with the group’s style. Start your entries by keeping clearly focused on the topic and matching other users for brevity and pattern of responses.
Visit Networking on CareerOneStop for more ideas.