With job-related resolutions still pending, now is a great time to boost your online career search or advancement skills.
While most of the work world knows that networking is critical, doing so digitally – from the comfort of your laptop, tablet or phone – is even more important today since so many businesses and professionals operate in that space.
“Invest some time in building your online brand,” advises Nicole Williams, a career expert at LinkedIn. No matter what field or industry you’re in, building and tweaking your online profile doesn’t take long and the time you spend on it can produce big payoffs. Here are some smart tips from the experts:
Dig up your digital profile – and retool it if need be. When was the last time you Googled yourself and analyzed the search results that popped up? “Your professional brand is not something to be lackadaisical about,” says Williams. “You should actively control it.”
No matter your field, search your name regularly. The Internet is the first place that clients, bosses, hiring managers and colleagues go to learn more about you – so your first impression online should be as strong as possible. Add skills you’ve learned recently; add new causes you’ve invested time in or projects you’ve completed. “Catch up now by taking credit for your accomplishments last year.”
Whatever you write about yourself, “focus on clarity,” advises career consultant Michele Woodward. “Being as clear as possible about who you are and what you do helps others see exactly what you bring to the table.”
Keep active and engaged online. Merely tweaking your online profile isn’t enough, however – you’ve got to stay actively involved online in a variety of ways. “The biggest mistake I see is that too many professionals sit back and assume opportunities will come knocking,” says Williams.
Share articles, blogs or tweets you find interesting. Reach out to people online. Find amazing sites you can’t live without and share what you’re found with your circles. You’d do the same in the non-digital world; there’s no reason to neglect an active presence online. If you don’t, you’ll never know what might get you noticed or pique someone’s interest in you, your skill set, or your career.
Know your networks. It's vital to understand the difference between the top social networking sites and how you can best use them to bolster the image you're projecting to current and future employers. LinkedIn, the go-to site for job-related activity, is great for posting industry-relevant links and touting work accomplishments. (Skip mundane status updates about your weekend plans.) Facebook and Twitter, on the other hand, are more of a gray area for mixing personal and professional content. If you'd like to keep those postings personal, be sure to put your settings on private. Make sure any publicly viewable photos on Facebook or Instagram show you in a work-appropriate light.
Start an online networking hit list. “Career success is as much about who we know as it is what we know – and doing a LinkedIn advance people search to identify the significant players in your industry is definitely helpful,” advises Williams. Not only can you observe the career paths these people took to gain insight into your own possible path – but inevitably you’ll find something or someone in common.
Who knew, for example, that so-and-so got their master’s in journalism at Syracuse’s Newhouse School, or that so-and-so taught a course at Stanford or went to school with your brother, cousin, best friend or neighbor? (It’s a small world most of the time.) You’ll also want to note people who are speaking at industry conferences or who are writing books about topics that intrigue you.
Make genuine connections by reaching out. Now that you have the names, do something with them – yesterday. When you send an email, make a call, or comment publicly on something someone has written, start with a heartfelt compliment about the person’s work or activity.
You’re showing you’ve done your homework and that, essentially, you care enough to connect.
If you’re hoping the connection will lead to a job or recommendation, be smart about expectations: You’re likely not to hear back overnight, or even at all. “Many people give up online far too quickly,” says Williams. “It takes anywhere from 2 to 10 points of connection online before someone may help you in some kind of meaningful way.”
This can’t just be a one-way street, either. Consider how you might help this individual with a connection, a tip or the like. “Networking is more than a technique to get ahead,” says Robert L. Dilenschneider in a new book, The Critical First Years of Your Professional Life. “When you reach out, be prepared to both receive and to give – it’s one of mankind’s oldest bartering systems.”
Consider becoming a mentor. This thought may not have crossed your mind if you’re deep into a job search or desperate to move up the career ladder. But it’s wise not to underestimate how being a mentor to someone else can help you – and connecting online can start or reboot that process. “From exposure to new people and experiences, to reigniting your own passion for your field,” says Williams, “investing in someone else is a strategic move.”
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