How to network online and boost your career prospects‏

Does anyone even remember a business landscape before the internet? Was there really life before Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn? These days, an online presence is essential to every organisation’s success, whatever its size and industry, so it’s not just larger employers that need to think about their digital shop window. A website, social feed and an ‘email me’ contact page are essential parts of individual job-seekers’ repertoire too, so if you’re not using online resources for professional networking then you could be damaging your career.

There are several secrets to success when it comes to using online networking to maximise your prospects and boost your career. Chances are you’ve already used professional networking sites like LinkedIn and have set up a profile, along with details of your career history, core skills and key achievements. So – how to make that first impression count? Read on for our top tips to network online effectively:

Create the perfect profile – nothing says more about you and the way you do business than your profile, so be sure to spend time getting it right in order to create the very best impression, from the photo you use to the language you employ. Pull out the headline information – what sets you apart from the rest? Highlight your strengths and keep overly descriptive detail to a minimum – that’s what the interview’s for.

Make the right connections – you’re sure to get invitations from all sorts of people when you sign up to an online networking site, some more beneficial than others! When deciding whose invitations to accept, make sure you’re selective. It’s not solely about generating job leads; see it more in terms of how your browsing behaviour and connections might be tracked and logged by the networking site you’re using to bring about useful opportunities. Think ‘cookies’ and you’re halfway there.

Be reciprocal – building relationships has always been about back-scratching and the digital age is no different. Don’t give too much without getting anything back but at the same time avoid being ‘take, take, take’. You never know where a response such as ‘this opportunity doesn’t sound right for me but I know someone who might be interested’ when approached by a recruitment agency could lead. They’ll be grateful for your help, more likely bear you in mind for any future roles and often run referral programmes that could net you a handsome reward.

Tread carefully – it’s OK to use social occasions for business and vice-versa, to a certain degree, but be sure to strike the right balance. No one enjoys being made to feel like they’re at work when attending a party, or even a specific business networking event, so make sure you don’t come across as mercenary or shallow. Put people at ease, whether you’ve met them in person or online, and be sure to use the right platform to make connections and follow-up communications.

Be prepared – whether you’re using online networking to pursue a particular job that’s been advertised or are connecting with a new contact purely to see where it might lead, always make sure you have an up-to-date CV to send when prompted. Likewise, have a few dates in mind for face-to-face meetings, should the opportunity present itself. There’s a danger you’ll drop off your contact’s radar due to faltering communications otherwise.

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