How to Network in the Digital Age
Networking Tips from a Gen Yer
By Brandon Miller
Monster Gen Y Contributing Writer
I seldom enjoy networking. Dialing the phone to reach out to a contact makes my heart race, my palms sweat, and my mind swirl. I get nervous and chatty and the entire process stresses me out. But a peculiar thing happened while I was toiling away in university these last few years; networking has gone digital. Just like they have impacted everything else in the free world, sites like Facebook and Myspace have altered the entire structure of professional networking.
Find Contacts Everywhere
When you apply to a new company, it never hurts to scour your social media friends’ lists and see if anyone works there - or if anyone knows someone who works there. Sites like LinkedIn are especially great for this because you can see the contacts of contacts and what positions they hold. It only takes one positive review to give you that special “in.”
Join Online Groups
One fantastic way to unearth contacts is to join online groups. Facebook hosts everything from the “Toronto Finance Geeks Association” to a “Montreal Lawyers” group for those who have passed the Quebec Bar. If there’s one thing that I’ve noticed through my own networking, it’s that people like to talk about themselves. Don’t be scared to ask an online contact how he or she started out in the industry or for advice on your job search strategies.
Get Resume Help
You have nothing to lose by getting your resume out there. One of the greatest ways to use a contact is to have them take a look at your resume and help you tweak it. Either they will tell you it looks great (and maybe even pass it along to people they know) or they will make helpful pointers on how to better market yourself. E-mail makes this process efficient and saves on time, but be sure not to become too casual in your communication. When in doubt, err on the side of caution.
I was recently on Twitter when I made a pretty shocking discovery: Michael Ignatieff was “following” one of my best friends. The magic of the Internet is that we have the capabilities to reach out to all sorts of prominent individuals that we would never have had any means to contact years ago. Never assume that someone is too far out of reach.
Use Blogs as a Tool
Nowadays, it’s hard to find an industry without at least a few blogs devoted to it. Since it’s vital that you keep up with the trends within your field, you should bookmark these blogs and do your research. Who are the power players? Who do you know who is connected to them? How can they help you? The more you dig, the more connections you will find.
Three things to remember about online networking:
1. Manners still matter. When working online, people have a tendency to forgo a lot of the polite gestures that one would extend when approaching someone new in the physical world. Be careful to approach contacts with the proper amount of decency and respect.
2. Be realistic. Not every person you contact is going to respond. In fact, most probably won’t. But the more people you reach out to, the better chance you have of increasing your online Rolodex. Try not to take things too personally and know that even the best and brightest sometimes go overlooked.
3. Don’t pester contacts. It’s important not to get too caught up in the networking game. People are busy and may not respond right away (or ever). That doesn’t give you license to hound them on a different form of social media. Stick to one initial message and a polite follow-up a few weeks later just in case they missed your note.