Lately. I’ve been doing a lot of seminars for prospective career changers, and I always ask the audience how many people are using LinkedIn to communicate directly with contacts in their new industries. Typically, only a handful of people raise their hands. But given the fact that tapping the social media groundswell is one of the best ways to launch a new career, active participation in sites like LinkedIn should be 100 percent.
Benefit #1: Your Network Can Be Exponentially Larger
When you’re building or changing your career, social media networking is better than traditional networking for several reasons. First, social media enable an exponentially larger network, reaching potential contacts through blogging, posting YouTube videos, and tweeting. And instead of talking about your career change among your small group of friends, you now have the power to reach those friends’ friends’ friends.
Benefit #2: Networking Activities Are More Efficient
Online networking also saves time and is much more convenient. Instead of commuting to a hotel and spending two days in a suit just so you could meet one or two valuable contacts, you can have dozens of conversations and lay the foundation for meaningful one-on-one relationships in the course of a few hours.
Benefit #3: Showcase Your Knowledge to Build Relationships
Those who are interested in growing their careers should naturally do a lot of research, and you can increase your online network by posting what you’re reading so that others can learn from it too. Every study on the power of social networking illustrates that people who share useful content have the most success in terms of building relationships.
Benefit #4: Interact Personally with High-Profile People
I love using social networks to establish contact with individuals I would not have had the opportunity to meet otherwise. These are people who have accomplished similar career goals. I use LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to comment on potential mentors’ posts and gradually get to know them. After a few months, I sometimes ask them if they’d have time for a 30 minute informational interview to share how they got to where they are.
While this is a great strategy, you have to be careful. Don’t ask for a job directly or assume you have a close relationship with someone immediately just because you’ve followed them online. These things take time and several interactions.
Final Words of Wisdom
In every social media interaction, remember to respect the rules of the individual community and be honest and authentic. Don’t try to be someone you’re not, and follow through on any and all promises you make.
Don’t feel it’s necessary to be a member of every hot new network – save time by evaluating your purpose for having a presence on each one you participate in. Differentiate between personal and professional networks and communicate your boundaries to your contacts.
If you are currently working at a company, understand their policies for employees who contribute content to social media sites so that you don’t accidentally reveal confidential or proprietary information.