Finally -- An "Easy Button" for Professional Networking

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I was intrigued by a recent article that claimed that about two thirds of IT professionals are using social network websites. I think this is terrific. For some IT professionals, “people” networking can be harder than getting their CCIE certification so why not make it easier with sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and MySpace? What matters is staying connected and if these sites can help you do that – bonus!

Here are some tips for how to use these tools for career oriented networking.

  • Build your profile – Pay attention to the details. Consider this your online cover letter. It should paint the big picture of who you are, what you do, where you are in your career, and your key accomplishments. It can be fun to let loose on these sites but remember that what you put up there is going to be viewed by not just your friends but prospective employers.
  • Join Groups – Join as many of these as you can. Look for school alumni groups, groups for previous employers, and professional associations – both local and national. When I went in and searched on professional associations on LinkedIn, I stopped count at 40 IT related professional associations. Most of these actively promoted membership for the benefit of career development. Once you’re a member, don’t forget to add those you meet to your own professional network. Just keep in – don’t blow the value of this tool by spamming a newly joined group.
  • Connections – Check out who your friends are connected to and if there’s someone who works at a company you’re interested in ask them for introductions. There’s nothing wrong with using these introductions to ask for the 911 on an organization, whether it’s their hiring status or what it’s like to work there. Also, don’t forget to periodically scan your email contacts for who you haven’t invited to join your network. You never know who they may be connected to.
  • Recommendations -- Recommendations are like online references. I’m not completely bought in to the value of these, they certainly don’t hurt. Just make sure that they are beefy enough and showcase what you’re interested in employers seeing about you. The last thing you want is a series of recommendations on your entry level technical skills when you’re applying for senior management positions.

Sites like LinkedIn are making it easier to find jobs through your LinkedIn professional network. They have a tool called Jobs Insider that helps you see your connections to hiring companies off of job sites like Monster and CareerBuilder. Though I think that their claim to helping you get introductions to hiring managers may be a bit beyond what the tool can actually do, it certainly does take some of the pain out of searching individual connections.

Let me know what you think and how you’re using these tools for building your professional network!

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