Stay in Step with Networking Trends

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Networking trends seem to come and go as fast as clothing fashions. Remember when exchanging business cards was the height of networking? Going the tried and true route still has its merits, but to inject your career search with boldness and urgency it's good to get onboard (or online) with the latest networking trends. The lines between social (Facebook, MySpace) and professional (LinkedIn, networkingforprofessionals) networking Web sites continue to blur. Here are some suggestions for how to get the most out of social networks and blogs, and how to make your face-to-face networking more effective.

Know Your "Netiquette"
"I wish I could tell you that career networking on the Web is a whole new frontier and requires vastly different strategies," says Career Coach Rhonda Murphy. "But the reality is that most of the guidelines are similar." Specifically Murphy coaches people to do targeted networking as opposed to throwing up a wide net and hoping to catch the attention of the masses. Posting indiscriminately on blogs or social networks is not advisable. Instead, it's better to use a connection to make another connection.

When you don't have a connection, Murphy suggests identifying a specific poster who seems knowledgeable about the discussion topic. She advises "Research their background and public posts as well as you can and note your common interests. When you feel comfortable, e-mail them directly and touch on what you have in common." Professionals have a better chance of cultivating strong online relationships using a tempered, gradual approach.

Discuss!
Participating in public discussions on the Web is a great way to develop contacts. Chat rooms, blogs, and Web forums can be career catalysts, and an informal way to virtually "meet" people in your industry. Sharing ideas and personal experiences and discussing industry trends creates bonds and disseminates information that can be critical to your job search. The key here is sharing because you want to be a resource and not limit your networking to leeching off of others. Although blogs and chat rooms give authors a chance to muse freely, it's better to resist the urge to reveal too much about your current or past employment history. Sites and online services like Vault.com, MSN Groups, and AOL's People Connection offer professionals the opportunity to create their own virtual meeting space. Remember that recruiters and hiring managers scour these spaces for potential candidates.

Put Tried and True Methods to Work
Attending business events and lectures in person, having "fact finding" lunches with professionals in your industry, and alumni events are networking opportunities that never go out of style. Just as the key to interviews is asking for the job, the idea is to let others know you are in the market. People may be in a position to help you or they may know others they can introduce you to. Always come prepared with questions and an open ear. Without being overly aggressive, talk about your professional past and where you see yourself heading in the future. Remember to keep it brief and to deliver your quick hit "elevator speech."

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