October 23, 2008

How to Network On-Line

I wrote last week about the critical importance of networking in finding your next job.

While nothing can replace real-life interaction with friends and friends of friends, the growing world of social networking is a bastion of opportunity you might want to tap as well.

There are a host of social networking sites, including LinkedIn, Facebook and MySpace, but some are better than others for finding a job (as opposed to locating new friends). Here’s a look at the inner workings of LinkedIn, which is widely viewed as one of the best sites for professional networking.

How does LinkedIn work?
LinkedIn is really *the* social networking place for professionals. Among the site’s 25 million members are representatives from all 500 of the Fortune 500 companies.  Also floating around are over 100,000 recruiters, who tap LinkedIn’s extensive membership base to find the best candidate for their clients. 

There are several ways to network on LinkedIn:

>> You sign up, post a profile and then start networking.  Like on facebook, once you have posted a profile, you can start looking for friends and colleagues as they look for you.

>> Not only do individuals have profiles, but so do companies.  So when you want to research a prospective employer, LinkedIn is a great place to start.

>> Companies post hundreds of job openings everyday, which you can search by key word or country. 

>> Even if you’re not actively looking for a job, recruiters can and do find you by searching the site’s profiles. 

>> Finally, you can network via LinkedIn’s Groups. That’s where you find others who work in your field and can share inside information about trends, working conditions and, yes, job openings.

What should I say in my profile?
The key to maximizing your LinkedIn experience is your profile. This is your opportunity to professionally brand yourself, so you definitely want to get it right.  Plus, LinkedIn ranks super high on Google, which means if a potential employee (or even just an old friend) is trying to find you via a Google search, they are likely to wind up with your LinkedIn profile in their top three results.

Here’s what you need to include in your profile:

>> Professional aspirations
>> Professional qualifications
>> Experience, including current and past employment
>> Education
>> Photo – while not required, this definitely helps personalize your profile
>> Personal interests — again, this isn’t a *must*, but it does help to make you a person rather than just a profile (that said, if you are going to list a few personal interestes, be short and too the point, without over-sharing)

In other words, you put in your profile exactly what you have on your resume (well, with the addition of your picture).

I’ve written my profile, now what?

In addition to your profile, you will also have an opportunity to complete a professional summary, which is a one-paragraph highlight of your experiences.  Be sure to select the Industry you work in (or want to work in), since recruiters and companies will look for you that way. Likewise, you’ll want to include keywords and skills, since you can be found through these as well.

If you have your own website, blog (that you wouldn’t mind employers reading) or any other online resources, you can link to those, too.

Finally, you can have friends and colleagues serve as recommendations.

Those are the basics of LinkedIn in a nutshell.  If you want more information on how to use LinkedIn to network for a job, you might want to check out:

>>10 Ways Journalists Can Use LinkedIn from my favorite blogger, Penelope Trunk

>> How to Use LinkedIn for Job Searching from About.com’s Guide to Tech Careers

>> Building a Web of Influence by Michelle Slatalla, New York Times (February 2008)

>> 100+ Smart Ways to Use LinkedIn @ Linked Intelligence (Warning: You can get lost in the links on this site, so go through it when you’ve got some time on your hands!)

Are you on any of the big social networking sites?  Which one is your favorite?

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