Much like in-person networking, online networking has its own rules of etiquette. Professional networking is an essential skill — some might call it a "necessary evil" — that can help you further your career.
People you meet through networking can point you to your next career move, act as references for jobs you are applying for and mentor you in ways you never thought possible. But networking itself tends to get a bad rap. It takes effort to introduce yourself to new people, and the interactions can feel awkward or forced. They're the blind dates of the working world.
Fortunately, with the all-presence of social networking and mobile technology, networking has changed significantly in recent years. Thanks to Social Media, it's easier than ever to connect with like-minded professionals and industry experts — many of whom you may have never met otherwise.
When you extend an invitation to connect, the person will inevitably check out your various social media profiles. Do the necessary prep work to make your social media profiles as polished and professional-looking as possible. This doesn't mean you should scrape your social media profiles of any personality whatsoever. Just make sure there's nothing on there you wouldn't want a potential boss to see.
Copying and pasting the same tired, impersonal message into your emails or invitations to connect? You might as well not even bother. Generic information is easy to spot and hard to forgive. They give the impression you're just mass-messaging anyone and everyone to build your network and are only looking out for yourself.
Connecting online is great, but nothing beats meeting face to face when it comes to growing your relationship. If there's someone you've connected with online whom you want to get to know better, suggest going to coffee, lunch or meeting up for a happy hour — and be sure to cover the bill.
If someone is unresponsive, it's okay to follow up once or twice, but don't hassle the person. No one owes you anything, and trying to annoy someone into connecting with you will only get you blocked. Move on to the next person who might be more responsive.
Take advantage of opportunities to help others, unprompted. Is there a job at your company you know someone would fit perfectly? Reach out to them and offer to be a reference. Helping others isn't just good karma, it can also pay off later if you ever need a hand from them.
Being able to network online can make a huge difference to your job search down the line. Just remember that good things take time. Don't expect results right away, take your time and be respectful, polite and soon you'd have a strong network backing you up. Need more advice? Our Job Search Professionals are happy to help.