There is no question that networking has fundamentally changed. Staying in touch with changes in technology allows you to access the “hidden job market” and build an effective network of professional contacts for years to come.
Here are some ways recent graduates can effectively network online:
1. Use LinkedIn
Most people today realize that a LinkedIn account is a growing necessity, rather than a bonus. But it is more than just joining and creating a profile. You have to find and engage in your networks. Start by building a profile and adding your schools and relevant interest groups. Alumni networks and interest groups are often overlooked, and are excellent ways to find jobs, contacts, and business partners.
Remember to engage your network by posting relevant articles or interesting career developments. If you contact a recruiter or potential job contact, remember to include a personal note and reason for contacting them. Adding a photo is always a good idea too-it makes you memorable.
2. Attend A Virtual Career Fair
Virtual career fairs save companies travel costs and are becoming a new way to network. Even if you don’t get the job the first time around, companies often keep in touch with candidates over time. Some companies hold virtual career fairs specifically for veterans or new graduates. In addition, many universities and employers have virtual workspaces where you might find new ways to network.
3. Use Twitter To Build Networking Circles
Twitter is a great way to connect to people around the world who share your passion about ideas. Using twitter is a quick way to find professionals in your field and engage them with your latest projects. Recent research, “Mapping Twitter Topic Networks: From Polarized Crowds to Community Clusters,” suggests there are different groups of conversations on Twitter.
This research conducted by Pew Research Internet project suggests that, “conversations on Twitter create networks with identifiable contours as people reply to and mention one another on tweets” (Smith et al. 2014). One can infer that by becoming valuable part of these conversations one can gain valuable insight and access to important people in a field.
4. Build An Effective Social Media Presence
Employers are beginning to look at candidate’s social media impact and influence. By building an authentic network of kindred spirits, you can show employers your passion and interest. It’s always a great way to share quick insights, research, and keep up to date on new developments in your field.
5. Blog About Your Passion
Blogging provides an excellent means to share your novel ideas with the world and build a social media presence for networking. Do not underestimate the power of your creative ideas. Approach blogging as a professional activity and be sure to cite sources, and share interesting information. Your network will appreciate it and you may be rewarded with new contacts, blogging awards, and sharing of your own personal projects. Blogging is a win-win activity for your career. Consider submitting a guest post for a website or creating your own blog on WordPress.
6. Take An Online Course
With the advent of MOOCs, online learning, and open access to education, it is a great time to take a course and keep learning about your field. There are many free courses and inexpensive ways to learn new skills. Staying informed and learning new skills is a way to connect to people in your field. These contacts share your love of learning and are probably active participants in their careers.
7. Freelance In Your Spare Time
Taking on a freelance project can help you build new clients and networks. Online freelance work can help build your virtual portfolio and impress employers. Consider it a virtual internship. If you have specific industry skills, you can even consider a pro-bono project for a non-profit or for pay freelancing on Elance or Odesk.
8. Consider Building An Online Portfolio
Building a career snapshot on a site like Contently.com allows employers to see your online work and social media mentions. It also condenses all of your social media contact information on a landing page, which makes it easy for employers to find you. Online portfolios provide employers a quick overview of your recent work and a short biography.
9. Separate Your Social And Business Social Media Profiles
To maximize your efficiency, it may be easier to keep your contacts in different spheres of your life separated. This can also be a good way to keep a polished online appearance for potential employers. It also allows you to have quicker access to what you are searching for.
For instance, you can keep your family & friends on Facebook and your professional contacts on Twitter and LinkedIn. Keep in mind that universities and employers search online profiles for potential “flags” so be sure to keep your online presence professional.
10. Find An Online Mentor
Consider contacting a senior person in your field or a career firm to virtually mentor you on your career path and engage new contacts.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, remember that virtual networks are about people. Remember to be friendly and keep the spirit of collaboration alive. You can find more tips on how to create a Professional Learning Network (PLN) on my prior article, “20 Tips for Creating a Professional Learning Network.”
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