You’ve heard it over and over: Networking is the key to success. Well, it’s easier to say you should connect with strangers than it is to actually do it. However, the Internet makes networking much easier. There are a wide array of social media sites (like LinkedIn) that are designed to connect people with similar business interests. And, of course, there’s always Facebook.
Here are some tips to help you navigate the online networking world:
Tip #1: Pick and choose sites that are right for you. The extensive variety of sites is a downside to networking online. Because of this, make sure you choose one that fits you and your career goals. Look for sites that focus on your area of expertise, or search for certain relevant groups within larger sites. It’s easy to get sucked in and want to join everything available, but choose wisely! You need to focus your network so that it’s manageable and you can give it your full attention.
Tip #2: Don’t be aggressive. Remember that you should always act professionally, even if you’re behind a screen. That being said, respond to people politely, even if you disagree with something they say. You don’t want to get into an argument online where everyone can see it. Also be aware of the way you word things. Nuance is lost in typed conversations (there’s no such thing as a sarcasm font), so something that you write may seem harmless, but could accidentally offend people. Reading your posts out loud before posting them will help you determine what’s appropriate and what’s not.
Tip #3: Always follow through. It is extremely important to stick to your word while networking. If someone gives you a contact number and you promise to call, make sure you actually reach out to them! You don’t want to seem rude or ungrateful for someone’s help. It’s also important to keep those who help you (and even some who didn’t but who tried to) in the loop and to thank them for their time.
Tip #4: Help others! Networking isn’t a one-way street. Don’t join a social networking site to solely seek personal benefits. Offer to help those with whom you connect. This could include meeting for coffee, or giving them a contact number. Networking is a team effort, so make sure that you’re willing to be a team player before you sign up!
The University of Massachusetts has numerous networking groups on LinkedIn that can help get you started. Search and join the group that interests you and we promise that your career will benefit from it!