Does the idea of networking scare you? Does it bring to mind images of parties and events in which you stand around and talk to strangers while you nervously hold a drink in your hand, secretly looking for the clock to see if it’s time to leave? These kinds of parties are not only nerve-racking, but also time-consuming, expensive and not always fruitful. However, things have improved in the last few years. Today, networking is often done virtually. Although you can’t completely replace real handshakes and small talk around a table, you can grow your network without leaving your home.
In the past, swapping contact information with someone you met at a conference didn’t guarantee that they’d actually do anything with it. As you know, it’s easy to go home from conferences with an overloaded brain and forget about all the people you met. With Online networking, you’re always just a click away from these contacts. You can make connections with those people once a month instead of once a year.
Are You Online?
If you are a professional and don’t have an Online presence, then how will people find you? If you send in your resume to a company, they will most likely do a search on your name to find out more about you. Don’t you want the search results to show that you are well-connected and an expert in your field? The good news is that you don’t have to be a techie to do this. The following networking suggestions require only an open mind, not a tech background.
Prepare Your Pitch
Before you start networking Online, you need to prepare a few things. Think about a one-sentence description of who you are and what you do. I suggest keeping an “elevator pitch” document in your computer that contains a few self-introductions of different lengths that you can copy and paste into “about me” pages on websites. You should also have an updated version of your resume. Next, you need a digital photo of yourself that you feel comfortable uploading to the Web. The photo should be a headshot that makes you look professional. Finally, think about your purpose for networking. Who do you want to connect with? What are your goals?
Networking is about making connections and engaging in two-way communication, so having a static website is really not necessary unless you run your own business. You don’t need a website to simply grow your network. The best way to network is to join Online networking sites.
As you probably know, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are the biggest and most useful social networking sites for professionals doing business in the United States.
Another way to connect with people is to comment on blogs. Writing comments is a great way to connect with authors, researchers, publishers, business leaders, and people in the industries you’d like to work in. Of course, the next step is to create your own blog so that other people can comment on your ideas!
Manage Your Time
At first, you might find yourself spending a lot of time figuring it all out and getting connected. (It can turn into a bit of an addiction!) But you really don’t need to spend all of your time Online. I recommend spending a few hours each month to keep in contact with people, and if you take a leave of absence for a few months, it’s OK. Everyone does. You don’t have to give up your hobbies just because you’ve joined the online world. Set aside time and call it your “professional development” or “ personal marketing” time.
If you’re new to all of this, keep an open mind and be patient with the technology and yourself. Don’t write it off because you don’t understand it.