Online tools, whether they’re dedicated business communities like LinkedIn or more informal ways of getting in touch with people, can be a huge help in the networking process. Used correctly, they can connect you with people who will be interested to hear from you and who might be able to help you with your career. However, used improperly, they can end up closing doors. Keep the following tips in mind when networking online:
—Be consistent. You may end up creating online profiles on a number of websites. Make sure your employment history, and in particular your job titles, companies, and dates, stays the same across all of them. Varying descriptions of duties and accomplishments is fine, but employers should see the same basic information no matter which profile of yours they visit.
—Keep your profiles updated. In addition to helping you keep your online image consistent, regularly updating your profiles will show that you are active on the site.
—Search for your name and see what comes up. Anyone you contact can easily check into your background by searching for your name, so you should do the same and get a glimpse of what they’ll see when they do.
—Join groups and engage with experts. LinkedIn and Facebook both have group features that allow you to connect with people in your field. You can also follow high-profile individuals in your industry to help you stay on top of any new developments.
—Don’t make connections at random. Before you reach out to someone, you should research him or her and be sure that a connection between you would benefit you both.
—Avoid trying to hog the spotlight. When you participate in group conversations, make sure you’re always contributing something of value and remain considerate of others.
—Never network for a new job while at work in your old one. Employers can easily monitor their employees’ online activities, and it’s important to give your old job your full focus until you leave.