Now that your image is on point you can start networking online. It is important to first clarify your top objective for social networking. This will guide your activities and help you to grow and refine your network. Determine what it is you are after: for example, a local job, relocation, or visibility in a professional community. Once you have determined your goal you can begin to look at your existing network. Stay in contact regularly with your current connections and ask them for referrals and prospects to meet your objectives. In determining your objective you can begin to narrow down where your focus should be by asking yourself these questions:
- Which websites, groups, subscriptions, publications and feeds do the people I want to connect with use?
- How much time will I set aside to network?
- What tasks can I reasonably undertake during that time?
- Scheduling 10 to 30 minutes a day is enough to connect meaningfully online and stay up to date on industry trends, business news or people you follow
Online networking follows the same best practices as traditional networking, but there is more opportunity to meet others outside of your network. Best online practice guidelines include:
- Try once; if they do not accept move on.
- People use online networks for different reasons at different stages of their careers; not all group members, colleagues, clients or professionals you try to connect with will accept.
- Your reputation is based on your activity; be sure to make meaningful contributions.
- Comment positively on professional posts, tweets, or in chats.
- Write a reference or testimonial for someone who has helped you grow professionally.
- Connect at least one person monthly with an opportunity, article or someone else in your network.
- Initiate discussions with people who inspire you.
- Build a network of professionals inside and outside of your industry.
- If you are employed, find out about your company’s policies regarding use of Internet, online networking, and electronic devices, as these vary. For some, staying in touch with colleagues and clients electronically is encouraged. For others, strict policies regulate what is acceptable.
Answering “yes” to the below checklist will keep your social media professional and up to date.
- I have searched versions of my name and online aliases, including images on multiple platforms (such as YouTube, Flickr, etc.) comparing what I find to my desired professional image, noting changes needed.
- My personal information – including address, age, family members’ names, and schedule – is not easily found online, safeguarding my home and privacy.
- Each social network site, blog, photo sharing or Twitter feed (even non-professional sites) conveys an image I would be comfortable for a prospective employer to see, including:
- comments, tweets and posts
- group membership/people followed
- I have a professional email account – ideally a professional version of my name – and I use the same professional image across all platforms so visitors start to recognize me.
- I have ensured my privacy settings are appropriate.
- I have untagged inaccurate or unprofessional content and images and have contacted others who have posted unprofessional content or pictures requested they remove or untag me.
- I have prepared what I will say about content I cannot delete, if asked about it.
Building a solid foundation
- I have done a keyword search for the work I am interested in pursuing and I have a plan for incorporating these keywords into my profiles.
- I have articulated the experiences and achievements that are relevant to my career direction – including work and volunteer projects and related extracurricular and community activities using keywords and descriptors found in my keyword search – to clearly explain what I can contribute.
- I have established a consistent profile across all websites, ensuring content on one does not contradict content on another
- I have made a list of past classmates, friends, acquaintances, volunteer/work colleagues and instructors and invited them to connect with me on a professional networking site.
- I have evaluated my current network and identified individuals I can honestly and genuinely recommend.
- I have identified my ideal audiences and have a targeted list of related companies, industries and individuals I would like to follow.
Growing a network
- I invite contacts whose business cards I have collected at professional activities and in-person networking events to connect with me on LinkedIn, always maintaining a professional format.
- When attempting to connect with people I do not know, I ask for introductions from a mutual connection, identify some common ground and clarify my intention for connecting.
- I have evaluated my current circle of contacts and have noted gaps I would benefit from filling, such as recent graduates who specialize in my field or work in the companies or industries with which I would like to connect.
- I have identified communities relevant to my studies and professional interests, reviewed user guidelines for each and noted etiquette and tone before contributing positive, professional comments and questions.
- Knowing that networking is a reciprocal relationship, I share with my contacts, including professional achievements, upcoming professional events.
- I have set up an alert to be notified when something about me, my name or those with similar names appear.
- I understand that privacy settings may change unexpectedly so routinely check my privacy settings on all social media and other online accounts.
- I recognize that no information on the Internet can be private and I only post that which I would be comfortable being seen by prospective employers, clients, campus administrators and colleagues.
- Online and offline, I always interact with my professional reputation in mind.
For further information, read the full tip sheet available on the Mount Royal University Career Services website.
Content for this blog was adapted by Arla Ewing, Career Services Work Experience Coordinator, from source document: “Online Professional Presence – Focus Tip Sheet”, written by Elaine Balych, Career Education Coordinator, Mount Royal University Career Services.
Mount Royal Career Services offers services to graduates of Mount Royal University credit certificates, diplomas, bachelor degrees and applied degrees.