The Complete Guide to Career Networking Online

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This is a guest post written by DSST Credit by Exam Program

A professional online presence is crucial for future career opportunities, as it can speak volumes to who you are and the value you can bring to a new position. Establishing a professional online persona can lead to exciting opportunities and connections.

Networking may seem intimidating, especially when you’re just starting out down a new career path. The good news is, most people love helping other people. All you have to do is ask. 

Make the Most of Social Media

Facebook is the world’s largest social network, with 890 million daily active users. You probably are one of those users, whether you use Facebook to keep up-to-date with friends and family or just to play the occasional Candy Crush Saga. But it is possible to look beyond Facebook’s social features and tap into its professional community.

Professional community? Yes. Facebook has a huge professional community outside of the worn-out farmers of FarmVille – in the form of Facebook Groups.

Groups offer an easy and fun way to grow your professional network. Even better, all you have to do is participate and learn – exactly the two things that should be your top priorities as someone new to their career. Facebook Groups exist for users to connect, discuss and network over a common interest or subject.

Having trouble finding a group that fits your interests? Don’t hesitate to create your own. It’ll give you a great topic of conversation for any other networking you have in store, and show that you are more than comfortable taking initiative.

Participation is key once you’ve joined a group. This is where the real networking starts. Post an introduction to the Group’s Wall as a new member, telling the group what you’re interested in and why you joined. Contribute to discussions, comment, add links and, soon enough, you’ll have added friends and contacts.  

 

Be the Icebreaker

Are you considering diving into a new field? Or are you interested in learning from the experts in a specific industry? One of the most effective ways to get a feel for a new topic about which you’re passionate is to engage in face-to-face conversations. You can do this very effectively at events and conferences.

Face-to-face networking reaps benefits that differ from those you’ll gain from your online networking. You will have access to experts and other individuals who share your passions and curiosity. Interacting at professional events also allows you to pick the brains of those in the business and determine if you can benefit each other professionally. Meeting with people face-to-face also will mean you can pick up on non-verbal cues like facial expression, body language, and tone of voice. You might be amazed at the amount of information you can gather about your prospects, much of which would otherwise pass unnoticed in an email or Facebook message.

If you’re new to networking, or just think schmoozing isn’t your thing, try to change your approach. Think of networking as a game. Network with a strategic goal in mind. Concentrate on developing relationships with people who will provide value to you and who can support your big-picture goals.

Online networking provides countless benefits, but that personal touch is just as essential. Face-to-face interactions and phone calls are your chance to attach your unique stamp to your online profile. And don’t forget to follow up with the people you’ve met to thank them for their time. We recommend that you add people you’ve met to your professional network on LinkedIn. Making those connections as soon as possible will benefit you in the long run.



Join the Fun

Does the idea of face-to-face networking have you breaking out in a cold sweat? Well, thanks to technology, you can network without having to leave your comfort zone.

LinkedIn is the most valuable career networking tool available today. Think of it as a professional networking paradise.

The platform serves as a portal through which you can direct your new contacts. When someone visits your LinkedIn profile, they should leave with a feel for your personal brand. If you maintain a professional portfolio, it should be linked to on your LinkedIn page. Interviewers will check your profile for your references, to see if you belong to any relevant professional associations, and so much more. In short, your LinkedIn profile is where you can craft your story and showcase the skills and value that you create as a professional (bragging rights are encouraged).

Forging connections on LinkedIn will keep you organized and up-to-date with individuals who share your interests. We recommend connecting with classmates and alumni through the Alumni Tool, professors, and all of the new contacts you meet at networking events and in relevant Facebook and LinkedIn Groups, like the Thomas Edison State University Student and Alumni Group. Find organizations and individuals that resonate with your big picture goals, and don’t hesitate to join the conversation.


Keeping It Business Casual

This is where we emphasize (again) the value of human contact: face-to-face networking.

Making connections as an online student is paramount. It’s easy to forget that, behind every email address, LinkedIn connection and Facebook friend, there’s an actual human being. Those individuals will be extremely important as you embark down your new career path, and work to advance in your profession.

Establish connections now, and foster relationships with your classmates and professors (what’s great is you’re already digitally connected). Invite them for coffee or lunch. If you’re crunched for free time, don’t think you have to eliminate the option of face-to-face conversation. Schedule a meeting over Google Hangout or Skype. What’s convenient for you may be convenient for them, too.

Remember to keep in touch with them regularly to strengthen your professional and personal relationship. You never know when you’ll need a referral or connection.

For every social media network, keep in mind that growth happens slowly and naturally. Find time to fine-tune your assets and keep up-to-date with professional connections.

What’s your style of networking? Have any tips we left out? 

Topics: Credit by Exam, Career