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Take your social presence to the next level by making valuable connections

June 20, 2014
You’re probably long past the days of proms and popularity, but your career might just depend on your acceptance in a new domain: professional networking. 

Your professional social networks can be made up of almost anyone you’ve ever met. If you are just starting to grow your connections, you should reach out to current and former co-workers, members of professional associations you are involved with, friends and family, former professors, instructors and classmates.

Of course, you may not have active relationships with all these people right now, but they could become relevant at some point. Each person in your network has the potential of leading you to other contacts or helping you to get an introduction with an employer of choice. Don’t hesitate to support these people as well as ask for help when you need it. 

So how can you grow your network and become the popular professional that everyone wants to connect with?

Choose the right networks
―the landscape of social media platforms is changing every day and new platforms emerge. LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are the most popular sites because they make it easy to share content. There are others that might be useful if you operate in more creative industries, including Pinterest and Instagram.

Tell people who you are―Remember that potential employers, customers and peers will check you out and you have to make sure your profile looks as professional as possible. Your audience should understand what makes you valuable after reading the information you include on your page. Check out my other blog post for tips on creating a powerful profile.

Actively grow your network―Making online connections is a bit like the real world: Don't be shy and stand in the corner, approach people, introduce yourself and start a conversation. Mutual contacts allow you to speed the process, similarly to how you would let a friend set you up on a blind date.

Although social media offers an amazing opportunity to directly communicate with industry thought leaders, you have to take it slowly. Would you ever walk up to a stranger and ask for a job? Acknowledge their work by commenting, sharing or liking their content, then work your way up to contacting them directly. 

When it comes time to make a connection with someone new, you should try to include:
  • A statement of commonality. People are more likely to help out people that they can relate to. 

  • The answer to “Why me?” A lot of people complain that they receive a lot of messages from job seekers that seem random. To avoid this from happening, you should explicitly tell them why you have chosen to reach out to them out of all of the other qualified professionals who are on the network.

  • A clear call to action. What do you want to get from them—resources, references or an interview? When you write your short message, include your request on a separate line to make it easy for the reader to see if they are skimming. Remember; don’t ask for a job the first time you contact someone.
  • Say something interesting and often―You should produce regular updates once a day or a few times a week. This shows that you are active and engaged, helping people realize you are an interesting person to connect with.   If you want to get involved in conversations to get noticed, try joining a tweet chat or LinkedIn groups, or live-tweeting an event.

  • Don't mix private with business―Your business connections don't really want to know what you had for breakfast, whether you had an argument with your spouse or how many pounds you have lost. Even though personal details might sometimes be interesting, publicizing them is not professional. To avoid this situation, you can create different accounts―one for your private connections and another one for your business contacts.

If you write a concise but compelling message and take the relationship slowly, social networking will open up amazing long-term professional relationships for you.

TEKsystems has created communities designed for IT professionals to network, share best practices and learn about current IT trends. Check out our Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ pages to get connected today!

As the social media guru for TEKsystems, Kellie Elmerraji keeps up with the latest trends in social media and provides advice on how IT professionals can use outlets like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to advance their careers.

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