There is a lot of info out there to increase your efficiency with social networking. A Google search turns up several results—I simply looked up “how to network with people” and a book by Harvey McKay, titled “Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty” came up. As the title indicates, it does make sense to have a well ready by the time you need to drink from it. Likewise, active social networking turns up the most results when created before you need the benefits of the network itself. It is best to use a simple strategy developed by answering the three simple questions outlined below.
Social networking is a free, easy way to meet other professionals and develop relationships that can propel your career in the future. When you are starting out there are several mentors that will try to help with advice for your career and job search, such as teachers, parents, career counselors, or others. Instead of advice though, I am going to give you a few tips on how to begin social networking through LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is a fantastic platform to meet other professionals that is growing at a meteoric pace. It took almost five years for LinkedIn to reach 100 million users, and less than a year after that to get to 130 million users. You can use it to reach out globally to find trends, share ideas, and become known as a subject matter expert. For that to happen though, you have to begin by looking to the future and taking some small steps. Before you decide to jump right in, you need to ask yourself three questions in order to have a strategic, successful, and bountiful social networking journey.
1. How much time will I spend per week?
This is a HUGE question to decide on. Decide on it, and then stick to it. There is so much information that it is easy to get lost going from link to post to group. I recommend you get an egg timer, set it for a certain amount of time, and log off when the timer goes off. The best memories in life are when life happens—and that does not happen in front of a computer monitor! I suggest starting with two to three times per week, ten to fifteen minutes per time, and then you can increase your time while your network grows.
2. What do I want to be seen as, and what do I want to be known for?
On your journey through your career and even life itself, it pays to remember one single truth—others will constantly evaluate your communications and performance. It pays to consider what you want people to think of you; think about what you want your reputation to be. The first step is to create a list of adjectives and attitudes you feel are important, not only for you to live by, but for the role you want to be hired for. Post it where you can see it while you’re actively social networking. By keeping a consistent attitude within your writing and communications, new people coming into your network can see your potential value. As they network with others, they will talk about your expertise; creating your online reputation.
Writing a personal vision statement related to your career will focus your communications even further. These adjectives and skills are the raw materials. My personal vision statement is “To provide clients with a holistic approach to career choice and development by using tools that generate positive momentum towards their personal goals. To ensure clients experience a counselor who is empathetic, sincere, and knowledgeable. To affect positive change by delivering information centered on the individual client. To share ideas, communicate trends, and develop current and effective career development models for clients.” When I focus and live through my personal vision statement, every day is a joy and my network reflects back to me how obvious it is that I am passionate, dedicated, and energetic. You can experience the same results through this process while you grow your network.
3. What is success for me?
Without a specific goal, you will only wander through social networking channels like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Defining a goal that is specific and time bound is necessary if you are going to achieve success.
For example, let’s say we are going to Toronto. Notice we left out important details with only that statement, such as when,why, for how long, who is driving, and more. If our goal was simply, “go to Toronto”, that is not enough to measure success. Instead, we could plan to to see the play “Les Miserables” in Toronto this Saturday. I will drive, we can share the gas costs of about 100$., and we will leave by 3:00 p.m. and arrive at 5:30 p.m. for the 7:00 p.m. event. We each will buy our own tickets when we arrive. We will arrive back home at 1:30 a.m. that night…
Focus on what you want to achieve, and then take steps to complete those goals. Make your goals, specific, measurable, action oriented, realistic, and scheduled to happen by a specific time. This is S.M.A.R.T. goal setting, and for direct examples, templates, and more free information you can use this link to get those tools. Some activities that may help you achieve your social networking goals are: posting an update or comment in a LinkedIn group and asking others to give feedback, sharing an experience where you solved a problem and asking if anyone has had the same experience, commenting on the updates of others as well.
Social networking is a currency of conversation, and the old saying that you have to spend money to make money applies. The more you communicate with others, the larger your network can grow, create future opportunities, and achieve your goals.
LinkedIn has several options, some of them are free, and some of them are paid/premium services. There is very little need to pay for any services at the beginning. If you are confused ask your network for help. The benefit of social networking is that many that use it are helpful, as others have helped them. There are several guides, tips, a blog, and more that LinkedIn provides on their page about their services – they call it “Learn LinkedIn”. Take a moment, go through some guides, and you can begin to construct your profile.
Take the time to build your network before you need it, or dig your well before you need a drink and it will be ready for you when you’re thirsty. Not only that, but using a strategic approach to LinkedIn will ensure your network knows you and your strengths, and you know them and their strengths. This makes it easier to figure out whom to turn to for expertise and help. With this in mind, consider networking with people you will eventually need, not just the ones you need right now. For example, if you are in school for a specific career, then network with people who can lead you to inside information later on. If you were making a career change, it would make sense to include networking with people that can give good information about that sector.
Social networking at any time in your career journey is not only a good idea; it is a crucial ingredient for long-term success in your life, both at work and at home. When you are able to have a career that fits your values, goals, and beliefs it simply feels good to go to work. Work is like air—we need it to survive. Using social networking lets you explore, share, teach and learn—all for free and at a time that is convenient for you. Your career is a long and dynamic process, social networking is not any different. The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, so I would suggest taking the first step and answer these three questions that lead to LinkedIn and social networking success.
This article was written by Career Development Practitioner and social media fanatic Chirs Kulbaba of www.LinkedIn Heavyweight.com.