Social networking has been a proven source of opportunity for job seekers for some time. In fact, a study by the Aberdeen Group found that 73 percent of 18-34 year olds found their last job through their network – and given today’s online connectivity, it’s likely that a large part of those networking communications were done online. Online networking has changed the job search landscape, but its success depends on using it the right way.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when networking online:

  1. Maintain your online profile If you’re looking to use a social networking platform to connect with potential hiring managers, make sure your profile is showcasing you at your best. If you’re using LinkedIn, check to see that your past work experience is up to date. Include descriptions that speak to your specific skills and knowledge, and don’t forget to proofread. Spellcheck and grammar-check all of your content–frequent typos and errors might leave an unfavorable impression.
  2. Make introductions simple for the middleman When asking a first-degree contact to introduce you to someone, try to make the process as easy as possible. Write up an introduction for your contact to use, and send along an up-to-date resume, if appropriate. This will simplify the introduction process for the middleman, and ensure that you’re being presented accurately in any communications.
  3. Don’t just ‘like’ It’s a good practice to engage strategically with other professionals online who might be able to lead you to a job opportunity down the line. Keep up with what’s being shared by your network, and don’t just ‘like’ interesting posts–share your thoughts. Online activity is a great opportunity to showcase your interests and expertise, so don’t shy away from engaging with others through the content they share.
  4. Join groups and discussions Online groups are a great way to connect professionals with similar interests. Look for groups or discussions that are applicable to your career goals and start participating. This type of engagement can introduce you to individuals who can give you insight into the positions that might interest you the most. You might also find online groups to be a good source of relevant job postings.
  5. Go offline Online social networking has opened up a lot of opportunities for job seekers, but it can’t replace face-to-face interaction. Once you make connections online, arrange in-person meetings (or phone calls, if needed). Join professional organizations and attend gatherings where you’ll be able to speak with professionals in your industry. An online connection can be a valuable opportunity, but a face-to-face discussion with someone will leave a much stronger impression.

A final tip: Online networking opens up many avenues for job searchers, but it can also be intimidating. Take your time, do your research, and don’t give up. For many job seekers, landing a position might take some time. Many networking efforts don’t lead to a job, but don’t write those off as a loss. Every connection you make has the potential to have a positive impact on your career. Keep engaging with the professionals you meet–you never know who might become a mentor or a colleague down the road.

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