n my volunteer work with job hunters, I find most professionals have joined LinkedIn, but many of them are still mystified about why they should be networking online. If you’re new to social media (and there are still a lot of people in that situation), here is a Q&A about the WHY of making connections online.
Isn’t P2P (Person to Person) live networking the real way to get a new job?
Online networking doesn’t replace live networking. (Viveka von Rosen of LinkedIn to Business notes the importance of networking both IRL and URL.) But online networking can make it easier and quicker to get to the “real life” stuff. Online networking, communicating, and research is essential for a job search these days.
What is Online Networking?
Online networking is simply using social media to help you connect with others to look for a job, to enhance your career, or just to connect with friends and colleagues. You can create an online presence so potential employers and others can find you and learn more about you.
After establishing yourself on a social networking site, such as LinkedIn, you may also go on to create an online résumé, participate in discussion groups, meet pros in your field, write a blog, create your own web page and use other resources to make it easy for potential employers to find you online.
Is LinkedIn so important? I’m already on Facebook (or Twitter, or Pinterest, or Google+)?
There are many general and niche sites for professionals on the web, but LinkedIn has over 347 million business members from around the world (over 111 million in the U.S., see their About Us page for more stats.), and is the most prominent business site in the United States. Even more important, it’s now the place where HR pros, recruiters and managers look for new employees. Some LinkedIn groups are also great places to meet experts in your field.
Other social media are also useful for job hunters, but LinkedIn is where your professional friends and colleagues expect to find you, too.
We’ve published oodles of articles about using LinkedIn for your job search and professional advancement on Frugal Guidance 2. We’ll have some suggestions below.
Why should I network online?
Online Networking is a Win/Win for Everyone
- It works 24/7. Your profiles, messages, blogs, and LinkedIn activity work for you around the clock.
- It’s instantly accessible. You go online whenever you like, on your computer, your phone or your tablet.
- People Search & People Research. LinkedIn today claims over 347 million members around the globe. If a businessperson is online, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll find him or her on LinkedIn. There, you can read their profiles, follow links to their posts, find their tweets, and discover where else they hang out online.
- It’s quick. You can meet hundreds or thousands of people in a small fraction of the time it would take attending networking meetins. Then use the screening we just mention to choose who to call or meet with.
- It’s less scary. I know well the stress that comes with walking into a room of strangers for the first time. Online activity is less intimidating.
- It’s a level playing field. People with disabilities, mobility problems, or speech impediments can network with ease and without regard to personal appearance.
- Your marketing reach can be local or world-wide. If you’re job hunting, you’re in sales. (YOU are the product.) If you are developing a career (while working), you’re also marketing yourself. Let others in your company and your industry easily find you.
- Develop your credibility. LinkedIn, in particular, is a great way to establish yourself as a knowledgeable industry insider. If you can write, there are lots of opportunities to prove your cred on LinkedIn, Quora, Twitter, on a blog, and elsewhere.
- You can show off your technical skills. Once you get comfortable with LinkedIn or other services, you become an expert for other people. Show off your technical skills (whether work-related or just online). Especially for older job seekers, looking adept online shows that you are tech savvy.
- It’s a springboard. After meeting people online, it’s easier to arrange to meet them IRL (“In Real Life”) for meetings, appointments, and relationships – assuming that they live and work geographically close to you. If not, there is video chat via Skype, Facetime, Google Hangouts, and the trusty phone.
Why do HR recruiters use LinkedIn?
Recruiters and other HR people go on LinkedIn because that’s where the potential employees are. Job seekers go on LinkedIn because that’s where the recruiters are.
Recruiters also use LinkedIn because:
- Profiles are usually updated more often than other databases and directories.
- Passive candidates are everywhere. Employers like looking and recruiting the competition and other people whose skills are up-to-date. Hard-to-find candidates are much easier to find online.
- Recommendations are also easy to find on LinkedIn. Your Contacts also show the company you keep. LinkedIn Endorsements help in search, but I don’t think many HR people give them a lot of weight otherwise.
- LinkedIn offers HR pros some sophisticated tools to find and pipeline potential candidates. See our Frugal Guidance 2 article on What Job Hunters Should Know About The Corporate Recruiters’ LinkedIn.
- It’s easy to see how people present themselves in writing, too, as well as how they interact online.
Are there negative things about online networking?
Yes, there can be.
Online activity can be a massive time vortex – sucking you in. Have an idea what you want to accomplish and how much time you want to spend on it. Don’t be distracted by ads, videos, cute photos, and games and puzzles.
There are scammers online, too (just as in real life). If somebody asks you to click an unidentified link, take a job you didn’t apply for, accept payment under the table, lay out any cash, or process checks through your bank account, hit the brakes and think, does this make any sense? Would a legit business operate this way?
There are also a lot of fake profiles on LinkedIn (as there are on every other social media site). Some are designed to harvest data for their own use or to sell it to others. Don’t be an “open networker” unless you are also open to a degree of risk.
Men, ignore the impossibly beautiful women online who say they are lonely and want to get to know you better. No good will ever come of it.
Women, never set up a networking tête-à-tête in a place you don’t know well, unless it’s clearly a public and open space (like a public library or a busy coffee shop in a well-lit area).
The final admonishment is, “Don’t be stupid.” Don’t let the prospect of a job or a good networking connection overcome your usual good sense. Don’t give strangers too much personal information and don’t pay for anything online unless you’re convinced it’s a legit retailer or service.
Should I be scared?
Be cautious, not scared. All in all, networking online is safer than walking down Fifth Avenue in broad daylight.
Today, LinkedIn and other social media are the public commons where it is easy to meet the right people for the right purposes. I’ve never had a bad experience.
Be generous with your ideas, your experience, and ability to help others, and others will naturally want to help you back and make the right introductions. Sometimes it’s as simple as that.
If you are job hunting, see our previous post, How to Find a Job Search Group.
Here is a sampling of other Frugal Guidance 2 links for job hunters.
Our series on conducting a stealth job search begins with Confidential Job Search 101. See also:
You can also do a search for your job hunting topic by using the magnifying glass search tool on top of the page.
Portions of this post were previously published in the author’s ebook, *The Job Hunter’s Guide to Using LinkedIn” by Andrew Brandt (now out of print).
Ideas for reasons for networking online came from the book Seven Days to Online Networking: make connections to advance your career and business quickly by Ellen Sautter and Diane Crompton, which has been revised and updated as Find a Job Through Social Networking.
Title photo is “Girl Writes Message” from SplitShire. (Photographer unlisted.) Used by permission.
Caution Sign is used by permission of “zdiviv” and FreeDigitalPhoto.net.