Networking in the digital age

By David Maida

Networking isn't necessarily something formal that you have to make a point of doing. Photo / Thinkstock
Networking isn't necessarily something formal that you have to make a point of doing. Photo / Thinkstock

Love it or hate it, networking is something everyone has to do in order to have any job contacts, clients and customers.

Jonathan Rice, owner of recruitment agency Rice Consulting, enjoys networking on a personal level.

"You should always be networking. You never know what job opportunities lie ahead - even if it's gaining business for your current employer," Rice says.

Networking isn't necessarily something formal that you have to make a point of doing. For some people, it comes naturally.

"I think that's what communities and business is all about," says Rice. "It's about talking and communicating and networking and socialising and sharing ideas and collaborating on stuff."

For others, networking is seen as part of the job of getting a job. It's a means to an end, not necessarily something they want to do.

Networking is about cultivating relationships and even though some people may not enjoy it as much as others, it's not something that can be done in a hurry when you need a job.

Rice says social media is going to have a greater influence over recruitment. He is on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and also attracts contacts through his blog, The White Board.

Online socialising is an enabler to help expand your network but nothing substitutes for communicating in the real world. "The number one thing to remember with all of this is that none of the social media compensates for old-fashioned networking and meeting people in person."

One of the most popular professional networking websites is LinkedIn, which boasts more than 100 million users. Rice says that given the global mobility of the workforce, LinkedIn speeds up the recruitment process by centralising a database of talent.

Workers who aren't even looking for a new job can have a LinkedIn page accessible to employers around the world without declaring they're in the job market.

"I'd recommend every employee be on LinkedIn and to put on there what they've done and what they do. If they've done any particular projects for particular clients, try and get recommendations for the work they've done."

These recommendations could also win business for them at their current employer. Online and offline recommendations are some of the best forms of networking.

Recommendations on LinkedIn are similar to a reference check but they're open for everyone to see.

The micro-blogging site Twitter is another way people can expand their network. But Rice says you should first decide if you're going to use it for personal or professional networking.

"If you want to use it as more of a professional tool then you need to align yourself with a company you work for, put that in your bio and make sure your tweets are a bit more professionally orientated."

Following or being followed on Twitter by someone you don't know can be an icebreaker, which may lead to contact later on.

Facebook, however, isn't really a business-networking tool, Rice says.

But for those who do use social media to network, it is a supplementary avenue to encourage face-to-face communications.

Contact David Maida at:
www.DavidMaida.com

- Herald on Sunday

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