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Networking to Avoid Notworking

The conventional wisdom is that online networking is a “contact sport.” The more connections, followers and friends you have, the more successful you will be. That may work with lottery tickets, but in a job search campaign, quality trumps quantity every time.

How is quality networking done online?  By building relationships.  Those relationships transform virtual contacts into real people, and only real people can become allies.

Why is that important?  Because in today’s uncertain world, helping someone with their job search is often dangerous – it can backfire and harm a person’s brand or even their own job – so only allies are willing to take the risk.

Building relationships, however, is hard work and time consuming. The contact sport version of online networking is appealing because it’s easy and quick. And yet, the word itself is very clear about which is the right course. It’s “netWORK,” not “net-sit-back-and-have-a-pina-colada.”

Creating Allies That Work for You

The best way to build relationships online is to practice the Golden Rule of Networking. As simple as it is profound, it states that You must give in order to get. In other words, if you want people to be helpful to you, you must first be helpful to them.  If you want them to be your ally, you must first be theirs.

To create allies, you have to develop not one but two kinds of networks online:
  • Networks where you share your expertise. Connect with your peers in your occupational field and share your knowledge, skills and wisdom with them.  The best venues for such relationship building are the discussion forums, chats and listservs on career portals and the Web-sites of your professional society and trade association.

  • Networks where you share your job search insights. Connect with your peers in your occupational field and share information and opportunities that may be useful or helpful to them.  The best venues for such relationship building are the discussion forums on job boards and at LinkedIn and other social media site groups that focus on your field.

How do you put such relationships to work for you in a job search campaign? While some recruiters now search for candidates by networking online, most still fill their openings by advertising on job boards or social media sites. So, the best way to leverage the people you know is by practicing the Application Two-Step.

Step 1: Find a job for which you are qualified, tailor your resume to its specific requirements and responsibilities and submit that document exactly as specified in the job posting. This step ensures that the HR Department has a record of you as a candidate for the position; they know that you didn’t try to “go around” them to the hiring manager, but instead followed instructions in submitting your qualifications.

Step 2: Reach out to your two networks to find one or both of two kinds of allies – people you know who work for the employer with the opening and those who work for the employer and with whom you have built an online relationship. Ask them to refer you to the recruiter working on the job. Recruiters consider such employee referrals to be their best candidates, so this step will ensure your resume gets the consideration it deserves.

Online networking can be a powerful addition to your job search campaign, but only if it’s done in a way that builds allies.  And, allies don’t care how many connections, friends and followers you have; they care how much effort you put into building a relationship with them.