The old adage of its not what you know, but who you know will never go out of style. We see it daily represented in almost anything publically displayed in the media. Now that media is currently most strongly held in the hands of the people, there is no shortage of proof that power is grown by the more people you know; the greater the access you have to these people and by the diversity of people you know. We are expanding our reach far beyond that of our ancestors just a century ago and with that reach come both opportunity and responsibility. Scientology for example, has been in the forefront lately as the preferred group to join if you want to become and stay famous, continuing the ‘clicks’ so well known in history as the generator of success.
Back in the day, networking events were the popular place to meet people; business cards, the transactional element of the day. Today, networking events happen in the moment; are usually not in person, and at most are incidental, social and without much true professional meaning. While the transactional elements have shifted to Twitter names, that trend will shift as the generation matures and realize the true value of the tool as businesses currently do.
One of my favorite places to network online is Linked In. Launched in 2003, I have been a loyal member since. Linked In, probably the best and most used professional internet site has done the job right in connecting members with people of similar backgrounds, work experiences and education. This is not to say that other people cannot find their way into your network, just that the most relevant will be shown to you. You can choose with whom to connect. It is also the place to join groups. Some are position related and some industry related; a perfect place to have discussions around the latest technology or hottest certifications. The popularity of the site was recently in the limelight as the company went ‘public’ on Wall Street. However, among most young people, and the older generation, it is still a mysterious and undiscovered territory.
The beauty of this site and others like it, lies in the ability to showcase who you are on your profile page and permit others to seek you out, professionally. Often, I receive invitations from folks who are so thankful that I have accepted. I am so thankful they are interested in connecting, as with every connection our independent network expands and therefore all of our reach. Updates, comments or quotes regarding what you are doing at the time gives additional professional perspective of the growth you are experiencing within your career. Need valuable references? You can petition for these directly on the site from co-workers or former supervisors. Need a new employment opportunity? Find it or develop it here also. New additions are sites like ‘about.me’ found within AOL that offer free webpages and business cards.
Each year, I promise to expand my network. Each year I have a goal for new connections. In 2011, I promised to triple my reach and have met some great folks along the way. So many benefits to reap: constant updates within your industry, job leads and if you are like me, interesting opportunities to contribute to the world at large through articles, books and ezines.
I should mention however that networking includes the word ‘work’ in it for a reason. It takes time to keep up and to interact with folks; my recent network reach is in the thousands. The good news is however, if you elect to use sites like Linked In, the site will keep your database of contacts for you.
Keep in mind that a site reputation for positive experiences is important. Unfortunately as a free favorite, Craigslist has been in the news a lot lately as not the place to network or find jobs-its reputation has a strong background of scams. What a shame because that was not the original intent of this free site. And while we are talking reputations, Facebook is not where you want to post the seedier sides of your life, as this is a popular site for recruiters and employers to reference your character and background.
So back to freebies, if you like the old standard of the business card-you can get these printed for free on sites like vistaprint.com. This site started in the early 1990’s and has been going strong since. You can design your own card and all you pay is shipping.
Why would you want your own business card? Well, to promote you! Whether you work for someone or not, it is a good idea to have your own card designed to showcase your skills abilities and direct contact information should something come of the interaction.
What do you put on your personal card? Name, contact information, generic title or area of interest. If more graduates had business card to distribute, more, I believe would find relevant work. Make that net-work!