Before the Internet marched in and took over the business world, "networking" meant doing one or more of the following:
Today's version of networking has morphed into LinkedIn, email blasts, and online meetings and conventions. However, it's still worth keeping a few old-school tricks in your toolbox to make the most of your networking efforts.
But whether you're cruising job sites and webinars or out there scattering business cards like confetti, networking is key to attaining your ideal position; with the right contacts, you will already have your foot in the door wherever you want to be. Employers are much more likely to trust a referral from someone they know over an unknown, unconnected resume, so by putting yourself in a position to be recommended, you'll vault yourself above any competition.
On social media sites
The most revolutionary change in the networking world in past decades has been the explosion of social media. Having one or more social profiles is virtually mandatory for success in the modern job market. Through LinkedIn, Facebook, and other platforms, you can maintain an up-to-date presence, share relevant information and, most importantly, connect and communicate with others in the business world. That said, social media is generally considered the bare minimum: keeping your profile(s) up to date is a start, but you'll have to work harder to set yourself apart.
Creating a virtual business card to post on your social sites is a great way to bridge old-school tactics with modern strategies. When you do this, you can also have a few old-fashioned paper cards printed to match your virtual version--people still tend to hang onto business cards, and when they run across your resume, they're likely to remember the impression you've already made.
Outside the profile box
Beyond social media profiles, you can use the Internet to further expand your network. Running or contributing to a well-written, informative blog will strengthen your presence. Twitter is a convenient way to follow thought leaders and big names in your field, and to stay up to date with industry news. By keeping yourself in the loop about new changes, leadership turnovers, and upcoming events, you'll be better prepared to step into conversations about the professional world you inhabit.
Another way to move beyond the boundaries of LinkedIn is to join sites like MeetUp, which provides a worldwide network of local groups to facilitate in-person meetings with people in your community, including employers. While online networking is essential, sometimes it's the offline impressions that make the biggest impact on your personal business network.
Face to Face
Without a doubt, the most important networking happens in person. At a social event, industry seminar, or even just a coincidental meeting, you have the chance to observe someone's body language and personality in a way that is impossible through a computer. You'll also leave a much more vivid memory--hopefully a good one--in the other person's mind. Don't be afraid to introduce yourself; once you do, engage the person in a dialogue rather than just giving a prepared speech about your merits. The impact you make will be more positive and longer lasting.
On the Phone
Another underused option in the Internet age is the telephone. While not as personal as face-to-face communication, it still allows for voice inflection, which can convey what a person is thinking, and demonstrates an initiative to reach out and connect. Calling individuals in your network shows that you care about the people you are linked with. You can "talk shop" and chat about work-related issues, or simply catch up on life as a whole--and in the process, portray yourself as considerate and involved.
Mastering the tools
By covering all your bases, you'll become a networking pro. Social media and traditional interactions combine to form a strong presence; those you've impressed may end up referring you right into the position you've been wanting.
Clearpoint is a staffing agency for jobs in information technology, marketing, creative, and other professionals. We do business by building long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with our employees and clients.