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Networking Online As Your Mother Taught You



10/10/2006 7:42:52 PM

By Peter Weddle -- There are jobs, and there are dream jobs. Jobs will come to you. Dream jobs have to be uncovered. How do you do that? Most experts agree that the best way to find the best employment opportunities is by networking. And while traditional networking is a widely understood (if sporadically practiced) skill, networking on the Internet is still a mystery to many of us.

I call this online activity “e-networking.” It’s guided by two very simple rules you probably learned from your mother:

  • The first lesson your mother taught you was almost certainly, “Don’t speak to strangers.” That’s true in networking, as well. People who don’t know you are unlikely to take the risk of referring you to friends or colleagues who may have an opening that is just right for you. The key to effective networking, therefore, is hiding in plain sight. The word says exactly what it means; it’s netWORK, not Netget-around-to-it-whenever-you feel-like-it. I recommend that you invest thirty minutes twice a week in networking online. Less that that will preclude you from building familiarity and trust with others; more than that will divert your attention from the other things you should be doing in a job search campaign.

  • The second lesson your mother probably taught you was, “It’s nice to share.” If you want others to share their knowledge of open positions and access to contacts, then you have to be willing to do the same. Think of e-networking as a collaborative activity, as teamwork. The most successful e-networkers treat that word as TEAMwork; they see themselves as an integral part of the group with which they are networking, and they view their role in the group to be one of proactive contribution. They will share the information and insights they have so that others can be just as successful in their search for a new or better job as they hope to be in theirs. Think of e-networking, therefore, as the adult version of the Golden Rule: it’s all about treating others as you would like them to treat you.

    These rules, of course, are just as important in traditional networking as they are in e-networking. It’s where and how they are applied that’s different online. Traditional networking is typically done one-on-one and in person. You network on the phone or in a meeting, and the key to success is “who you know.” If you know the right person, you can find one of those dream jobs.

    eNetworking, on the other hand, occurs via e-mail at bulletin boards and discussion forums on the Internet. When you share information and contacts online, you are sharing them with tens, even hundreds of other people. e-Networking, therefore, is a one-on-many form of communication. It enables you to dramatically expand the range of people “who know you” (and may be willing to assist in your job search). And, you can do that while you sit at home in your fuzzy slippers and peck away at your computer.

    Does that mean that e-networking is social networking in business attire? Absolutely not. In one you’re trying to find a friend or a date; in the other, you’re trying to find a job or advance your career. e-Networking is not a leisure activity; it’s an exercise in building work-related relationships. It’s best accomplished, therefore, at sites where others have the same intention. These include sites that are operated by:

  • your professional or trade association;
  • your undergraduate, graduate or technical school alumni organization; or
  • an affinity group that is appropriate for you (e.g., veterans, women in technology, Java programmers in St. Louis).

    In addition, you might also try:

  • an emerging kind of job board that’s best described as a “career portal” and offers features and functions for career advancement as well as job search or
  • corporate blogs that a small, but growing number of employers (e.g., Micorsoft, Honeywell) are starting to use on their sites to establish a dialogue with employment prospects.

    You can find these groups and/or their sites by conducting a search at Google, Yahoo!, Ask and other search engines and through the Groups tab at Google and the Blog Directory at Yahoo!. You’ll probably uncover lots of places where you can interact with others who can be helpful to you in your job search. However, given that you will only be investing an hour or so per week in your e-networking and that you must share to be effective, I recommend that you find the one group where you feel most comfortable and limit your participation to it. Then, be conscientious about your involvement and generous with your contribution.

    e-Networking is not a substitute for traditional networking. It is, instead, a way for you to uncover the dream jobs that most people will never even hear about … and show your mother that you were listening to her after all.

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