This past week it was brought home to me just how powerful networking can be, regardless whether you are doing it in person or online.
After the final day of the course I’ve been taking over the past few weeks, I was asked to give an impromptu lesson on how to use LinkedIn. If you’re not familiar with this online network I highly recommend it. But like any networking it takes more than just being there to make any connections and have things happen.
Just the same as you don’t walk into a networking event and stand in the corner you can’t just sign up and expect people to talk to you.
One of my classmates was looking to expand her knowledge while she searched for work and another was hoping to switch to an entirely new industry. I guided them through the layout of the LinkedIn home page and showed them where the tools were located and how to edit their profiles and add contacts.
Then, I showed them how to search for the groups who matched their interests and how to join them. While we spoke I gave them tips on how to participant in the groups, use them for research and build their own validity while participating in discussions.
A few days later, I spoke to one of the people I’d trained. She was ecstatic. She’d added all her old co-workers as contacts. Then, people she’d met over the years, recognized her name and photo from her contact’s lists of new connections and suddenly her contact list doubled. (therein lies the strength of LinkedIn)
Better still, two of those contacts forwarded job postings they thought she’d find suitable.
This all happened within a week. While I freely admit there are some industries better suited to programs such as LinkedIn for connecting with peers online, there are ways to work around it. If you can’t find peers, you may be able to find a goldmine of customers if you’re the only one from your industry online and answering questions.
The most important thing for any of these networking sites is to fill out your profile. I cannot stress this enough. If you don’t it’s like walking into an event wearing a mask. People are wary about communicating with peolpe who feel the need to hide themselves.