Networking has long been a way for men and women to expand their professional horizons. Networking can keep professionals abreast of the latest goings-on in their industries and provide both immediate and long-term benefits.
Like many things in the business world, how people network has changed in the digital age. Embracing that change and making it work for you will likely involve changing how you network.
· Embrace professional social media. Social media may not have been around the last time you looked for a job, but professional social media sites such as LinkedIn are a vital component of networking in the digital age. If you haven't done so already, establish a LinkedIn profile so you can begin connecting with other professionals in your field.
· Personalize your connections. The days of sharing a post-work drink with a colleague may be over. But networking in the digital age need not be impersonal. When using professional networking sites such as LinkedIn, personalize the messages you send to other professionals when inviting them to join your network. Use the message to briefly introduce yourself and explain your connection before explaining why you want the person to become part of your network. Welcome any questions and warmly thank them for their time. This personal touch can make you stand out in a digital sea of people, many of whom simply want to add other professionals to their network without necessarily making genuine connections.
· Get out of the house. Digital age networking is not limited to digital connections. Meetup.com encourages like-minded men and women to get together with real people in real life, using the internet to facilitate such connections. Men and women who sign up can use Meetup.com to connect with local professionals in their industries, attend industry-specific events and even establish their own meetup groups. A medium such as Meetup.com is great for individuals of all ages, but it might be especially valuable to established professionals looking to combine digital age networking with the more traditional networking they're accustomed to.
· Be mindful of decorum. The internet is a largely informal "place," but professionals should be mindful of decorum when networking online. Resist the temptation to use shorthand, slang or less formal language when contacting other professionals, as doing so can make you appear unprofessional. In addition, avoid making potentially controversial or contentious comments on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
Networking in the digital age may intimidate working professionals accustomed to more traditional networking strategies. But while the methods may be different, effective digital age networking is not all that different from the networking strategies of yesteryear.