Networking for professional purposes has been diluted in its meaning, having become so vague it’s worthy of clarifying the different types of networking as related to your job search efforts. It is wise to identify what kind of networking activity will be an investment with a higher rate of return for your efforts.
Many people are using social networking in their job search efforts. As with any online resource, you cannot and should not rely upon virtual means as a singular effort, for the simple reason that you will be missing opportunities found by other methods. Many jobs are not posted online.
Some people confuse recreational aimed social media / networking with actual human interactive business networking. How many online friends you can accumulate doesn’t mean much because, after all, there are friends and then there are acquaintances. I suggest most people we know are acquaintances. Facebook and Myspace, which I think is still around but has been supplanted by Facebook, are recreational devices sometimes masquerading as a tool for business networking. Yes, there are products marketed there, but for job search and professional networking I don’t see it as very much use, although some may disagree with me. Facebook can be useful for finding professional sector-specific or support groups a person can join to conduct some level of networking.
LinkedIn is probably the best known and, to my knowledge, the most used business / professional networking tool, although to my irritation, it seems they want to be more like Facebook, because now I get notices about peoples’ birthdays, which is pretty useless for business networking. I mean, I am not going to consider someone professionally as a result of a birthday wish and if you don’t know it already, keeping business and personal activities separate should be a Golden Rule. Furthermore, LinkedIn is a key resource for most recruiters I know, me included. For your information, here is a list of 20 business -aimed social networking websites you may find useful: http://www.sitepoint.com/social-networking-sites-for-business/
Another option for social networking for professional purposes is to find resources that are industry specific in scope. For example, I am a military Veteran and there are social networking resources for Veterans. These organizations fulfill many roles and one of them is networking for job opportunities. One with which I am familiar and endorse is http://www.gallantfew.org/, which is a resource for all U.S. Military Veterans but with a special focus on Airborne, Special Forces and Spec Ops Veterans. Social networking isn’t simply about providing a place for professionals to find jobs but, in the case of groups such as Gallant Few, it provides a morale-support aspect when associating with like-minded and focused professionals.
The other type of networking activity is true-blue traditional, business and professional networking. Networking for professional and business purposes, that which networking was before the advent of the digital age, was always conducted in-person and face-to-face. Often business deals were and are conducted as a result. The reason is simple -- via relationships, built as a direct result of physical interaction, is still the most effective because there is more trust and confidence built on personal relationships. Again, association with like-minded people increases the chances of gaining a tangible result. Consider this: would you be as willing to provide a professional reference to someone with whom you might have exchanged online correspondences but don’t know, or, for someone with whom you’ve actually met in person and interacted?
Generally speaking, networking is a wise addition to your job search efforts. Many people have better results networking than they do with over-reliance on passive online methods, which allow you to sit on your butt while pretending you’ve actually done something. However, networking of any kind is an activity that takes time, so if you have a short attention span or are obsessed with instant gratification, your expectations may be unrealistic.
Also, keep in mind that searching for a job requires a multi-faceted concert of interwoven activities. This means you also need to have a credible and coherent professional online presence, separate from your personal profile, which I hope your privacy settings reflect. For more suggestions about your online presence in this regard, see my blog entry from Monday, the 2nd of March, earlier this month.