NetWORKing for Success Online

Published: Jun 26, 2007

By Peter Weddle -- We recently took a look at the responses to date in our ongoing poll of job seekers on the Internet. For those of you who may not know, we at WEDDLE’s have been conducting this survey since 1996, asking both active and passive job seekers what they do in an online job search and what they don’t, what they like about looking for a job online and what they don’t, and most importantly, what works best when conducting a job search on the Internet.

One of the questions we’ve asked in the survey is “What do you like best about today’s job boards?”. The most recent responses were not surprising:

  • 29.8% said they most liked the quality of the job postings (i.e., employers represented, salary levels),
  • 26.8% said it was the number of job postings,
  • 14.4% said it was the ease of access to the job boards,
  • 13.6% said it was the fact that access was free,
  • 11.8% said it was the job search tools and information provided on sites, and
  • just 3.6% said it was the ability to network with others on the job board.

    Obviously, a central feature of a job board’s appeal is its database of employment opportunities. However, a good job board offers much more than that. More expansive job boards—I call them “career portals”—offer tools and information on resume writing, interviewing and other aspects of a job search campaign to help you improve your performance and, therefore, your odds of success. No less important, they also often offer a way for you to expand your circle of contacts and the doors they can open on your behalf. And it’s our poll respondents’ very low, almost nonexistent use of that job board networking capability that has me worried.

    Why? Because in a traditional job search campaign, networking is a key strategy for finding a new or better job. More than any other single activity, it can spell the difference between success and otherwise … but only if it’s an integral element of what you do each day. The word, itself, says as much; it’s netWORK, not netGetAroundToItWheneverYouCan. In other words, networking is something you have to work at it every single day, and that’s true on the Internet as well as in the real world.

    Thankfully, online networking (or e-networking) is extremely convenient. Unlike traditional networking, you can do it whenever and wherever you want—from the office or an airport terminal, from a coffee shop or a hotel room, even from home in your fuzzy slippers. If you have access to the Internet, you can e-network. And that’s the first challenge it presents. While you should e-network regularly, you should also be careful not to overdo a good thing. Make sure that the time you spend online leaves plenty of time for traditional networking and all of the other activities that are central to an effective job search. What’s the optimum amount of time you should spend? I recommend that you e-network for 30 minutes each day.

    The second challenge of e-networking is acquiring the skill required to do it effectively. The way you network online is very different from the way you network in the real world. Traditional networking is typically done one-to-one and verbally, either in meetings or over the phone. The key to success is who you know. If you can connect with the right person, then your prospects of landing a dream job go up.

    On the Internet, in contrast, networking is done one-to-many and in writing. It typically involves messages you post to a discussion forum, listserv or bulletin board on a site sponsored by a career portal or your professional association, alumni organization or an affinity group (e.g., women in technology, veterans, former employees of the XYZ company) in which you’re interested. The key to success, then, is not who you know, but rather who knows you. The more contacts you can make by networking online, the more likely you are to find someone who can open the door to the job you want.

    Whether you network online or in the real world, however, the Golden Rule remains the same. You have to give as good as you get. In other words, it’s not enough to simply show up at these discussion areas and watch the conversation unfold. You have to participate. If you want others to share their insights and tips, you have to be willing to share yours. Equally as important, you must treat these messages as business communications. Why is that? Because you never know who may be reading. More often than not, of course, it’s your colleagues, but it can also be a hiring manager or a recruiter, many of whom use these discussion areas to spot and connect with the top talent they need for their openings. So, edit what you write accordingly—a professional e-networking area is not the place to rant about politics or a previous employer—and proofread it carefully.

    Everything you do online requires an investment of time and effort, so it’s important to focus on those activities that will serve you best. Although most people don’t yet realize it, one of the most effective job search techniques on the Internet is e-networking. Done well, it can open doors that are closed to others, point you in directions you would otherwise never even know about, and set you apart from the herd in the competition for your dream job.

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