How to use online networking to your advantage
In today’s digital world, we all leave a footprint behind. This digital footprint can give prospective employers an insight into who we are away from the office. Whether it’s a ‘like’ on Instagram, a comment on Twitter or a contribution towards an online forum, what we say online can leave a lasting impression. But whilst much is written about the negative impact of online networking, there are many ways in which we can use it to our advantage.
Previously, we explored how individuals can make the most of online training. We want to expand this to consider how employees can use online networking in a strategic way to boost their career prospects. We’ll look at how individuals can use social media or thought-leadership pieces to demonstrate their professional knowledge. We’ll also explain why it’s still important to continue networking and facilitating new connections even as we remain working from home.
Are you using social media correctly?
We all know of the importance of maintaining an up to date and accurate profile on LinkedIn. But are enough people using it as effectively as they could be? LinkedIn has a wealth of professional interest groups where participants can share insights and learn from peers. Not only can these forums improve knowledge and expertise, but they may spark some creative inspiration – especially for those working in creative sectors such as marketing or PR.
One of our top tips for maximising the impact of LinkedIn, is to make the most of the ‘article’ function. This tool goes beyond the standard ‘status update’ element of social media. It allows writers to publish in-depth thoughts and opinions which can be read and shared with connections. We know that these articles are widely read and can lead to some interesting conversations with connections. What’s more, published LinkedIn articles are widely indexed by Google and other search engines. If a prospective employer undertakes some preliminary desk research into applicants, having a written article appear on Google could add further credibility to an application.
Top Tip #1
Written articles and columns can also be an effective way of ensuring that an individual’s CV stands out from others. Hiring panels are looking for applicants who can provide evidence of their continual professional development. Therefore, details of any written articles should be referenced within the personal profile section of a CV. This will allow hiring panels to learn more about that individual as well as broaden the discussion during a potential interview.
Can you be a thought-leader?
Savvy wordsmiths who have a lot to talk about when it comes to their professions may benefit from taking advantage of a wide range of writing opportunities. It’s not just about blogging (although a widely-read blog can be an effective way of increasing a personal profile) – it’s also about contributing to community forums or other online discussions. Organisations such as the CIPD have hugely active community forums where professionals can collaborate effectively. If an individual is participating in online conversations, they may start to make new connections with peers, albeit in an informal way.
For those looking to build their public profile, thought-leadership contributions towards sector-specific websites can be a valuable way of building new connections. HR trade publications actively seek contributions from readers, as do PR and marketing outlets such as PRMoment or Marketing Week. These outlets may be read by decision makers and are effective in allowing people to share their thoughts and opinions to a wider audience.
Top Tip #2
Thought leadership can also play an important role in professional development. Professional bodies such as the CIPD, the CIPR and the CIM take continual learning seriously. Members of these organisations are encouraged to maintain an active portfolio to demonstrate how they are continuing to learn and improve their skills. Written articles are highly regarded as valuable assets for these portfolios, and they could help individuals to move into higher membership grades.
Don’t be afraid to make virtual introductions
A key aspect of online networking is that individuals can make connections with people far beyond their immediate geographical reach. Taking the time to connect to a fellow professional on a site such as LinkedIn can bring new opportunities or open up new discussions.
For those who may struggle with confidence, virtual introductions can be easier as individuals can be less concerned by appearance or body language. What’s more, they can start a virtual connection at a time that suits them.
The secret to making a great virtual introduction is to get to know somebody first – perhaps by liking or commenting on a social media post. We make the most of connections through the value that they bring. If an individual has liked something that they’ve read, there is no harm in sending the author an email or short message to explain why they liked it.
In our view, online networking and virtual introductions may become more important than ever before. Not just to showcase that businesses are still active, but to generate new business opportunities which will be vitally important as we head into a global recession.
Top Tip #3
We anticipate that in the future, hiring managers and interview panels may specifically ask senior/director-level professionals how they maintained business development opportunities throughout the coronavirus pandemic. If that individual can demonstrate how they managed to preserve existing connections (as well as develop new relationships), they may be able to successfully demonstrate their professional value, making them considerably more employable.