The evolution of social media has not only revolutionized the way we communicate, but also how we approach numerous life tasks. For many industries, one such change involves the use of social media as a popular tool for job searching.
For young professionals, networking has long been one of the most effective methods of finding job opportunities and making connections in a particular industry. Today, such networking is exponentially easier through social media. While finding connections in traditional ways such as meetings, conventions, mutual friends, and other social events is still incredibly important, connections can also be found and strengthened through social media such as Twitter and LinkedIn.
The importance of social media in networking varies greatly across different fields. As a Public Relations major, I have found that my field unsurprisingly puts more emphasis on such networking. Before and after PRSSA (Public Relations Student Society of America) meetings, for example, many members follow and tweet at speakers and panel members thanking them for their time and asking additional questions. While phone numbers and e-mails could (and should) be exchanged at the meetings as well, connecting on Twitter provides unparalleled access to their activities, allowing many more opportunities for dialogue and the sharing of ideas.
Social media also offers a way to facilitate forming relationships, not just strengthening them. Social stigma over meeting people on the Internet is a thing of the past; these days, it’s almost even encouraged as a way of broadening your network. Professionals are rarely anonymous on Twitter, and many are happy to meet more members of their field. Many relationships are built via mutual connections; check out whom your current connections reply to and retweet and see if you would be interested in talking to that person too. If you see an interesting article online or read a good book related to your field, search for the author and/or any sources mentioned in the text who could be a good connection.
While Twitter is an excellent resource for such connections, LinkedIn has been established as a platform specifically aimed at professional connections. No one is anonymous on LinkedIn; you are there as a professional displaying your current job, work experience, and skills relevant to your field. LinkedIn forms connections in terms of degrees; you are directly associated with your first-degree connections, their connections are your second degree, and in turn, their connections are your third degree. Essentially, the traditional idea of networking via your friend’s friends is put online.
So when you find these potential connections online, what do you do? Simply put, be honest and be yourself. The anonymity of the Internet may allow you to be whomever you’d like, but that won’t help you in the real world. These people may one day be your coworkers, friends, or even your employers, so start your relationship off right with honesty. Reply to their tweets if you have something interesting to add to a conversation, and retweet anything you find important; even better, add a few words of your own thoughts to any rewteet. If you find someone you’re interested in talking to on LinkedIn, make sure to include a note on your connection invitation explaining why you’re connecting with him or her, especially if it’s someone you’ve never had contact with before. Don’t be offended if they say no; many users are reluctant to connect to strangers on LinkedIn because they prefer to keep it more personal and professional. You can still search for their Twitter or personal blog to build a relationship. In some cases, you may want to connect to someone simply to have access to their connections. If this is the case, be honest; there’s no shame in sending them a note saying you’d be interested in gaining access to more potential connections in your field. This is especially helpful if you’re a student entering into the field, as many current professionals are happy to help a newcomer, especially if they are an alum of your school.