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Social Networking in a Time of Social Distancing

Posted by Ashley Preuss

In the midst of fear, uncertainty, and economic turns, you may be tempted to push pause on your job search and networking efforts. But instead of fixating on the unknown and allowing doubt to stop you in your tracks, make the most of your situation and push forward. One of the most important factors of a successful job search lies in networking. While in-person networking opportunities are limited at this time, think to what you can accomplish remotely.

If you’ve scrolled through your friends’ recent status updates, you might have noticed a lot of people taking the time to fine-tune their Netflix playlists. Similarly, your networking efforts and online presence can use some fine-tuning from a professional perspective too. Cultivating your network is a step-by-step process. Are you engaging with others in your community? Have you built a brand for yourself? Are you active enough? Have you started at all?

Whether you’re just beginning to network or you’ve been doing it for years, use these insights to make the most of this time spent socially distancing, by networking online.

Social Networking in the Cleared Community

While social media has become a necessary component of networking for professionals in many industries, it’s understandable why some cleared job seekers choose to opt out. At the end of the day you need to make the decision you’re most comfortable with, while keeping operational security in mind. Even if you choose not to network on social media sites, take this time to connect via telephone or email. Reach out to your network, references, and past bosses to connect and refresh those ties. Networking does not have to be strictly online, as we connect with different people in different ways. Though connecting with other professionals through social media is an effective method, it can still be done the old fashioned way.

However, if you do choose to use social media for networking purposes, we’ve put together a number of tips to help you maximize your efforts. Even when sharing minimal information about yourself online, you can still benefit from learning about potential employers and individuals who may be helpful in your job search and career. Here a few key benefits social media offers:

1. Expands your networking and information sharing options. Social media allows you to not only stay in contact with those you already know and easily sustain connections, but it also helps you create new relationships. Networking is crucial to job search and you can reach many more people online than you can offline.

2. Provides reputational information about your skills and abilities for potential employers. Many recruiters will likely vet you online at some point in the interview process. Your professional profiles serve as another opportunity to showcase your talents beyond your resume.

3. Offers a rich database of information to aid in your search. Sites like LinkedIn have tons of information about your target companies, their recruiters and current employees. You may have a connection to someone that can offer advice or help you get your foot in the door.

Choosing Social Media Platforms

We used to all communicate face-to-face. Then came the telephone, fax machine, federal express envelopes, and so forth. Now we have so many channels to pick from that it can often feel a little overwhelming. Some will simply select LinkedIn and stop there. But think to the gatekeeper holding the keys to the job you want. Where are they? Depending on your profession, there are more specialized online communities that may provide much greater value than LinkedIn.

It’s important to have multiple ways of promoting yourself and communicating with people. As you look for at least one or two social media channels to start engaging and amplifying your presence, keep in mind where your industry tends to hang out online. For example in the hacking community, Twitter is often a better option. If you’re a software developer, check out GitHub. Or if you want to work in state, federal, or local government, look at GovLoop. Also consider using an online calling card like about.me to provide links to your professional profiles all on one landing page.

Controlling and Fine-Tuning Your Presence

This is where we start to take things up a notch. You need to go beyond putting up a poorly written profile, that’s not up-to-date, and with only a handful of connections. And be sure to check your privacy settings on all your accounts regularly, as new features and updates can bring changes.

As with all social media, don’t share anything that you don’t want the world to know—like your security clearance. We surveyed recruiters and hiring managers and found that 1 in 5 would not consider hiring someone who put their clearance on their profile. It’s viewed particularly negatively in the Intelligence Community and you don’t know which companies, recruiters or hiring managers are in that 20%.

Fill out your profiles to the degree you are comfortable and log in to not only update any information that might have changed, but to interact and engage with your professional community on a regular basis. Consider these tips for engaging on social media:

1. Send personalized messages when sending a connection request whenever possible. Maybe you met someone briefly or haven’t seen them in ages and they won’t remember you right away. Or if they don’t know you at all, what’s the reason you’d like to connect? Share your intentions for a meaningful connection rather than sending requests on a whim without purpose. Keep in mind you’re after quality of connections, not quantity.

2. Think about your personal brand. Sometimes people have a cavalier attitude of ‘take me the way I am.’ But your professional accounts are not the place to share politics, religion, or other topics that can be sensitive. The content you create, and the items that you like and share, are a reflection of your personal brand. Every action you take online adds to your digital footprint. Be aware of what you are putting out into the world and contemplate the ramifications good or bad – how could this affect your job search prospects?

3. Hone your online social skills. Once you get going, you might find you have a very different personality online. It can take time to get comfortable, but keep making adjustments until you find your voice. And make sure at least 80% of what you post on career sites like LinkedIn is career oriented—that’s not to say the other 20% should be birthday or baby pictures. You might share an inspiring story or information about an upcoming free training – something that will still resonate with your community. Also keep in mind, not to inflate your own abilities. You could easily make yourself out to be an expert and later fall flat when you’re hired with those expectations. So work on your social skills to ensure you communicate both authentically and appropriately.

4. Be patient but proactive when building an online community. Just as you can’t build a real relationship offline by meeting someone once, online engagement won’t happen overnight. Join groups and participate in conversations. Don’t just hit the like button, but share your take on the matter or pose a question—actually participate. While you won’t log out after one day with an immediate group of friends, consistent and authentic communication will eventually lead to an expanded industry network that you can call upon when needed.

5. Maintain good grammar and spelling in your communications on professional platforms. It’s easy to get in the habit of using texting and Twitter shorthands, but go the extra step on LinkedIn or other professional social media channels to use proper spelling and punctuation in your posts and comments.

Though many of us may feel isolated at this time, networking can serve as a way to stay connected. So keep engaged with your network, recruiters, and hiring managers, and push yourself to improve something that you have control over like your networking efforts. Staying positive and connected will help you navigate whatever comes your way.

This entry was posted on Friday, March 20, 2020 1:58 pm

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