Sunday, November 29, 2009

# 106 - Bulding effective networks: Social media and the LinkedIn resurgence

LinkedIn is experiencing a resurgence... finally. Since it added a few new applications (mimicking Facebook), the grandaddy of the social networks is now becoming relevant. For those who are new to social media or about to enter the job market, this is the social network you really need to be participating in.

LinkedIn has different demographics than Facebook, MySpace and all the other social media networks. LinkedIn skews older (68% are 35+), wealthier (66% make $60/year+), and better educated (72% are college grads), which makes it a perfect vehicle for new grads, job seekers, and anyone who wants to start building a strong referral network. In the digital age, networking has changed. It's not just a matter of attending a few business card exchanges anymore.

The Good News
For people who enjoy social network connectivity but don't want to live and breathe it, LinkedIn is the ideal option. It’s safe and it’s strictly business. You'll have very few interactivity options there, so you will never be faced with the “wow, I wish my client/boss/mom didn’t see that picture” dilemma, something that is all too common on Facebook these days.

LinkedIn works because it purposefully does less than Facebook and MySpace. Your connections are controlled. It's genuinely easy to use. There is virtually no layout control and only minimal advertising. You don't have to worry about being tech-savvy or multi-media capable. The site is organized like a regular address book, something everyone knows and understands.

The Bad News
The only trouble with
LinkedIn is that the address book approach also makes it easy to treat it as nothing more than an old Outlook contact file with your personal profile on it. The reality is LinkedIn offers amazing opportunities to grow a network, a reputation, a business or a career – whatever you need. Because it’s much less flashy and "in your face" than the other social networks, you have to dig a little to find the best stuff.

Why Network?
Networking is still one of the best ways for young adults to find a job. But did you know it's also equally valuable for older grads? Resumes from referrals still land on top of the stack of applications and are reviewed first. If you are finding your way into or returning to the working world, consider these quick tips:

• Be clear. Get to the point of what you are looking for. What kind of job opportunity do you want? Make sure you know the answer and keep it short and sweet so you can communicate it easily.

• Rehearse. Have a 10-minute speech ready at a moment’s notice. You never know when or where the opportunity will arise; when you will meet someone and need to get into the details regarding your qualifications. Stumbling over words leaves a bad impression.

• Tell everyone that you are looking and available. Leave no stone unturned. Tell friends, family, fellow or former classmates – even current or past professors. You never know who might know someone in the field.

• Don’t be shy. Now is not the time to be reserved about asking for help. Ask for job referrals. If people you speak with enjoy what they are doing, they are usually more than happy to lend a helping hand and offer suggestions or recommendations. Keep your messages short and concise. Again, go for it. The worst that can happen is you get a no - this time. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

• Follow-up.
Always follow up on a referral offered and the person who provided it. Then, follow up again. People are busy and may need a few reminders before getting back to you. Be careful not to bombard anyone with constant messages. And, always send a hand-written thank you note to a person who has helped.

• Hang in there. This can be a lengthy process. Maintain that positive attitude and be true to yourself!

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