Connect: (E)Network Into Your Next Job!
By Nancy Halpern
The Internet is a revolution. Allow yourself to imagine how life changed after
production moved to centralized factories, or how we all changed with the introduction and
dominance of automobiles and television. We can not imagine modern day life without these
The methods and strategies of successful job searches have also changed forever.
From electronic resume scanning to virtual interviews, something big is happening. One of
the most exciting developments is the explosion in e-networking, or taking traditional
networking techniques and launching them into cyberspace. Its a tool that you can
use to jump start your job search and get information faster and smarter than anyone else
WHAT IS E-NETWORKING?
Traditional networking teaches you to build a primary contact list, which you use to
identify additional names and contacts. The process repeats itself until you create an
upside down pyramid, believing that the "hidden" job market holds the best
opportunities, if only you can network your way into them. E-Networking combines the
traditional networking you do as part of your career search, with the power of the
Internet. It allows you to create a community of virtual contacts who can provide critical
information on job leads, industry trends and possible openings. These are people whom you
would never have met in any other way.
THE THREE KEYS OF SUCCESSFUL E-NETWORKING
Reproducing this critical career search strategy on the Internet can dramatically
expand your circle of contacts and help locate that next great opportunity even faster. In
order to achieve the best results, it is essential to answer three basic questions before
What is the advantage of E-Networking?
Many people feel awkward with the concept of networking. They are reluctant to pick up
the phone and call a stranger, even if there has been a personal recommendation from a
mutual friend. The dialogues feel forced, strained and artificial. Some people are very
comfortable doing this, but for many, it is the most dreadful and difficult part of the
job search process. On-line interactions, however, do not involve a phone call or
necessitate a personal meeting, thereby eliminating most of the fear surrounding that
first "encounter". When you feel more comfortable networking, you will do more
of it, thereby generating new leads on a continual basis from a growing circle of
Where do I go for E-Networking?
There are many sites devoted to business networking, and other sites that have strong
networking components. Professional associations, alumni organizations, message boards and
other on-line communities are all places that you should visit with E-Networking in mind.
The same is true for ISPs and browsers, which often host career clubs segmented by
industry or area of expertise. Always investigate the links of sites you visit to see what
other places you should visit for E-Networking leads.
How do I network on line?
When you identify an E-Networking prospect, you should use an email template that you
have developed for your job search. The template would include how you found that person
(e.g., both members of the same networking web site, both alumni of the same university,
referred by another virtual contact, etc.), what your common areas of interest are (e.g.
both worked for a specific company, experience in the same field, a shared goal, etc.),
and a request for further information (e.g. information about a particular industry,
advice about an objective, etc.). It is also a good idea to personalize your template with
something about yourself that you feel comfortable sharing it helps create a mutual
bond and makes the recipient more at ease.
CRITICAL INSIGHTS ON E-NETWORKING
There are some differences between traditional networking and E-Networking. These
- E-Networking does not require an introduction from a primary contact on your
networking list. The person on-line is the primary contact and can also refer you to
- E-Networking gets immediate responses. There is no telephone tag to be played
on-line. People who are email fluent check their email frequently, and tend to respond
within 48 hours to an inquiry. Someone who is not interested in E-Networking simply
wont respond at all.
- Everyone on the Internet is accessible to you. The publication of their email address
means that you have an opportunity to initiate contact and build a relationship. That sort
of availability simply doesnt exist in traditional networking.
- Managing your circle of contacts is greatly simplified. You can use contact lists
that are internal to many sites, or your own electronic address book to manage your
growing circle of E-Networking contacts. There is no need to collect numerous business
cards with hastily scrawled reminders about each individual.
- Many sites sponsor networking circles and events. Some of the best E-Networking sites
are traveling throughout the country, hosting presentations and seminars for their
members. The assumption is that you have met colleagues virtually, and now want to cement
those relationships at an evening dedicated to further networking and perhaps even
It is important to remember certain "rules of the road" when you begin your
- Initiate widely; continue selectively. It is important to cast a wide net when you
are networking on the web, simply because you do not have a personal introduction to pave
the way for you. Sometimes it is difficult to tell, by the information that is first
available to you, if someone will be useful as a networking partner. So do make your
initial efforts large, and then scale back.
- Identify yourself and use common sense. You are in this for a purely business reason
to augment your job search efforts. Therefore do not use an alias or any other
pretense that would make someone uncomfortable networking with you. People who are also
networking for business will recognize that and respond accordingly.
- Adopt "business casual" language. Email sometimes lulls us into being more
casual with strangers than we would normally be. Please remember this is business, and it
is your job search. Therefore, it is important to strike a tone somewhere in between a
formal business letter and a casual note to a good friend. Make your communications
friendly but respectful. Do not use any acronyms or commonly used symbology (e.g. lol, ?,
?, etc.) in any of your business correspondence.P}
- Bookmark, or select favorites, early and often. When you are searching for that next
great site, it is all too easy to get lost. It is essential, therefore, that you bookmark
favorite sites immediately and make a habit out of frequently editing your selections.
That way you are never hunting for that wonderful link you discovered at two a.m. the
Profile Drive Sites
These are sites that ask you to create, and maintain, an individual profile about your
experience and background. The site then allows you to search for other members who share
your common interests. Membership, which is mandatory, is absolutely free.
With over three million members and growing daily, Six Degrees makes connections
between you and new contacts through your common friends. When you join, you are asked to
invite people in your "circle" to join as well - the site does the rest. You can
join any number of active groups on a variety of topics, and see how many
"degrees" away you are from any other member. A great tool for building instant
networks based on common history.
A different approach to networking, Industry Insite prompts you to build a personal
profile of your previous companies, interests, career areas, etc. It then provides you
with a network view of how many other members match you on each of those specific
variables. This site is smaller than Six Degrees (only 64,000 members) but allows for more
targeted networking on a wide variety of business and career issues.
Fast Company Community of Friends http://www.fastcompany.com/cof/
The Company of Friends is Fast Company magazine's global readers' network of
self-organizing local discussion groups, mentoring and networking organizations. You can
meet the people associated with the cell in your area and as a member of the readers'
network, you can build your own personal profile online. Use your digital business card to
network with other CoF members in your area -- and to find people with whom you can
connect, communicate, and collaborate.
eGroups is a free email group service that allows you to easily create and join email
groups. Email groups offer a convenient way to connect with others who share the same
interests and ideas. Their business and finance area is an especially powerful place to go
to meet other E-Networkers.
There are hundreds of sites that offer advice and counsel to the independent
contractor. But free-lance professionals are often your best source of information
regarding industry trends and opportunities. That makes them perfect partners to network
with, since they are want to know whom is hiring and who is growing.
Guru.com is a Francisco-based startup dedicated to empower independent professionals
and the clients who hire them. You can search their data base of gurus by geographic
region and industry specialty, finding out work history, experience and other background
information to locate potential E-Networkers.
Another great site designed with the interests of the free-lancer in mind. Expert
advice on a variety of issues combined with industry networks for instant community
building. A group of driven professionals from all parts of the business world.
If you are considering a career change, and looking to meet people in that new
industry, this is a great place to find them. It covers all ends of the management
spectrum, from stay at home data clerks to virtual CEOs.
Lots and lots of sites exist with the soul purpose to aid you in your job search. The
following have great sections on networking, as well as authors whom you can contact on a
variety of job search questions.
One of the most comprehensive networking databases you will find! Search by industry,
location, interests, even alumni Associations to find organizations that can help you meet
Ask the Head Hunter.Com
This site provides the opportunity to ask a well-known executive recruiter all those
questions were always afraid to ask. Great articles on networking and other job search
Five months on the Internet is like fifty years of R&D in a traditional
corporation. Although it is important to regularly revisit sites, it is more critical to
marshal your time effectively. The Internet is a seductress; you can lose yourself
floating among attractions, hopelessly bewitched by vibrant graphics and beguiling
portals. DONT DO IT!
Like any good strategist, be sure to draw your own map before making a move. What is
your goal? What do you want to learn, is it about relocation to a new city, or to make a
career transition, or simply to meet others who share your professional objectives? Where
do you want to go today?
Once you know, buckle your seatbelt and hold onto your hat racks - its going to
be a bumpy, and oh what a wonderful, ride.
And always remember:
"Not all who wander are lost" JRR Tolkein.
Nancy Halpern is the founder of Strategic Positioning
for Women in Business, a career coaching and
executive training company specializing in goal
realization, presentation and negotiation skills, career
development and quality of work/life planning. Nancy works with both individual women and
companies, and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit Nancy on the web at http://www.womensnet.net/channels/its_a_living/main_fs.html