It’s been said that looking for a job is a full-time job in itself. You need to make finding a job the focus of your daily routine, and follow a detailed job search plan to ensure that your time is being used wisely.
While applying for jobs is a large part of your job search, networking remains one of the top ways job seekers find positions, so it pays to build a variety of solid connections. During the pandemic, in-person networking is out of the question, so you need to change your networking tactics to focus on online networking. However, even during “normal” times, creating a strong online network can benefit your job search and career.
How Online Networking Helps Your Job Search
With online networking, you have a wider reach than you would at an in-person event. People from all over the world can meet up in a professional, like-minded group, giving you the opportunity to meet and network with people in your field that you might never meet otherwise.
Creating a Successful Online Networking Strategy
Start with LinkedIn
LinkedIn has become the go-to site for career-related networking. Beyond creating an optimized LinkedIn profile, be sure you’re taking full advantage of all it has to offer. Let LinkedIn automatically make the “easy” connections by sending invites to everyone in your address book. Then, take heed of its periodic suggestions of other members you might know based on your information or background.
Move Beyond LinkedIn
While LinkedIn is the place for all things career-related, don’t limit yourself to one social network. If your work involves a visual component, create a professional Pinterest or Instagram account to highlight that part of your work. You can also use Facebook and Twitter to engage with thought leaders and other professionals in your field.
To take your personal branding to the next level, consider building your own website. It’s a great place to collect testimonials about your work, and create an online portfolio of your accomplishments. This should serve as a one-stop shop for people to connect with you and to learn about your background.
Consider Your Existing Network
Before you reach out to possible new networking connections, reach out to your existing connections first. This is a great way to start building your online network.
Starting with current contacts can offer a greater sense of support and connection simply because of the existing relationship. It can also allow you to catch up with former colleagues and peers, and potentially schedule informational interviews.
LinkedIn also has a feature that allows your existing connections to introduce you to their connections. This helps you build your network when one of your current connections is connected to someone you want to meet. You can then ask that existing connection to introduce you.
Try Chats and Groups
Eventually, though, you’ll want to expand your network from existing contacts to new contacts. While that can be intimidating, online networking makes it easier and less stressful for people to connect with new networking contacts.
Join social media groups and chats dedicated to your area of interest. Groups can be found on LinkedIn, and chats exist on Twitter. If you’re savvy with social media, you can also find discussions with like-minded individuals through Reddit. You’ll want to find the subreddit that pertains to your profession.
Choose the Right Connections
Before you reach out to any professional, consider if you’re reaching out to the appropriate person. There is often a pecking order of who talks to whom. If you are a mid-level professional trying to reach out to CEO and executive-level professionals exclusively, you may be hurting your chances of forming any valuable connection.
Connect with professionals on a similar career level to you, or who work on a team where they could be your manager (i.e., a senior tax accountant reaching out to a senior tax manager). This way, you will foster relationships with the people that truly matter—the ones who can influence hiring decisions and likely relate most effectively to your experience. In addition to online networking, joining a professional association in your area is a great way to network in your industry.
“Hi, this is Bob, and I would like a job,” is not the best way to introduce yourself to someone. Networking takes time and requires a relationship to develop. As you continue to build your relationship, you can dive into more details about your professional relationship and potential jobs, but jumping in with both feet and asking outright for a job will only hurt your chances of success.
Keep your “cold call” introductions quick, simple, and professional. Don’t ask too many questions and don’t expound on your great accomplishments in this first message. This first message is just an introduction, a hook to get their attention. Once you have their attention and their response is positive, you can take the next step and delve into more detailed networking questions.
Taking these small steps displays your interest in the company, but it also shows your respect for the person you are contacting. It shows that you recognize they are busy professionals and that you understand their need to concentrate on their duties and tasks.
Online Networking Now for Success Later
Networking is one of the most complex aspects of being involved in the professional world. There are endless methods, tools, and platforms associated with networking, and it can be difficult to decide where and how to start.
One constant about networking, however, is that it is about the practice of building relationships over time. Don’t wait until you are out of work to start networking. It’s something you should develop throughout your career. Take the time to successfully network online using the tips above, and the results will be worth the wait.
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Alexis Reale, Megan Totka, and Beth Braccio Hering
Photo credit: Bigstockphoto
A version of this article was originally published on February 7, 2015.
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Alexis Reale, Staff Writer
Alexis Reale is a staff writer at FlexJobs, the leading website for telecommuting, flexible schedule, and freelance job postings. After a brief stint working in a traditional 9-5 role, she now aims to help others find work doing what they…Read More >
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