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How to Use Social Media for Career Networking

September 22, 2011

Many people have profiles on popular social media sites, but are you effectively using social media to develop your network? Networking is about establishing relationships and exchanging information that can mutually benefit you and your contacts.

In this blog post, we continue our series on EH&S professionals using social media with ways to build and expand your career network using social media.

Start simple
First, start inviting your friends, family, and co-workers to join your network. You should feel comfortable adding them as a friend or requesting to connect. Do you belong to any industry associations or professional organizations? What is your university alma mater? Search for and join these groups online to help others find you to join their networks. This will also help you become familiar with the tools of each social media website.

Important Advice: If you decide to use Facebook and Twitter for professional networking, carefully review your profile and decide what you want business contacts or prospective employers to see and what you don't. Use your real name when creating your profile so contacts can easily find you. Facebook allows you to manage the privacy of your status updates, photos, and profile by creating groups for your friends to control what is shared with each group. Ultimately, anything shared online could be seen by others regardless of your privacy settings.

Engage with others
Look beyond your company and immediate circle of contacts to tap into a more diverse universe of ideas and opportunities. Join groups that you have a genuine interest in and become active in your online communities by starting and joining online discussions. This will demonstrate your expertise as well as expand your search visibility and spur new one-on-one connections. Invite clients, vendors, and business partners to connect. Reach out to your online connections at least once a year to keep your relationship active.

Complete your profile to showcase your skills and experience. Make it easy for potential contacts to search for you by incorporating keywords into your profile (e.g. EH&S engineer, NSR expert). Also, include a link to your professional profiles as part of your e-mail signature so people can click on them and learn more about you.

It is important to give what we wish to receive
Use your online communities to ask questions and gain knowledge from other’s experiences. But don’t forget to return the favor and respond with your own experiences. The more people exchange information within a group, the more valuable the group becomes to all its members, and the stronger the relationships become.

Another way to give is to include links to articles you’ve written or found valuable, organizations you belong to, and events where you’re speaking or attending on your profile. LinkedIn has applications that you can use to share your presentations, blog posts, travel plans, portfolio, and reading list.

But remember networking is not about self-promotion. People want honest conversations about real questions. Don’t forget you can assess the credibility of those in the conversation by their profiles.

Don’t expect a response
When inviting someone to connect online, remember that most people will not take the time to respond to everyone who contacts if they are not interested. If the person wants to connect with you, they will. Give new contacts some space after reaching out to them to avoid being intrusive. Start by sending a warm-up message to introduce yourself and mention areas of mutual interest.

Stay tuned for examples on how to introduce yourself to new contacts and other social media etiquette.