Networking is simply reaching out and making a connection, but one with dignity. It happens in the hallways at school, sitting in the classrooms, at social and business events. If there's at least one other person in close proximity there's an opportunity to connect. Networking is an attitude, not an event.
Networking is increasingly being promoted as both a business and personal social skill. Both the social media form of networking and personal face-to-face networking are a fundamental part of the job search process. Many career counselors and talent managers see networking both as a professional skill and the best source of possible jobs.
Face to Face Networking
Face-to-face networking in a job search is imperative. Most people get this wrong, though - they wait until they need a job to begin to network. Networking should be a continuous development of relationships and not on an as-needed basis. You should start to build your network before you are in need of something. Always approach networking in terms of what you can do for someone, not what they can do for you. If you are building your network and asking what you can do to help instead of asking how others can help you, networking tends to be more effective.
Even in the age of online job boards and soft-copy résumés, face-to-face networking is still the best way to get people to connect a face with a name. Though opportunities for this personal interaction are more challenging, it is essential that people looking for employment actively seek ways to connect with others in person. Joining various work or industry-related groups is a great way to build relationships, network and hear about potential openings and opportunities.
Professional Social Networking
LinkedIn, like Facebook and MySpace, is a free networking site but more business-oriented. Founded in December 2002 and launched in May 2003, LinkedIn is mainly used for professional networking. As of October 2008, it had more than 30 million registered users, spanning 150 industries.
The purpose of the site is to allow registered users to maintain a list of contact details of people they know and trust in business. The people in the list are called Connections. Users can invite anyone (whether a site user or not) to become a connection.
This list of connections can then be used in a number of ways:
- A contact network is built up consisting of their direct connections, the connections of each of their connections (termed second degree connections) and also the connections of second degree connections (termed third degree connections). This can be used to gain an introduction to someone you wish to know through a mutual, trusted contact.
- It can then be used to find jobs, people and business opportunities recommended by someone in one's contact network.
- Employers can list jobs and search for potential candidates.
- Job seekers can review the profile of hiring managers and discover which of their existing contacts can introduce them.
The "gated-access approach" (where contact with any professional requires either a preexisting relationship, or the intervention of a contact of theirs) is intended to build trust among the service's users. LinkedIn participates in EU's International Safe Harbor Privacy Principles.
The feature LinkedIn Answers, similar to Google Answers or Yahoo! Answers, allows users to ask questions for the community to answer. This feature is free and the main differences from the two previously mentioned services are that questions are potentially more business-oriented, and the identity of the people asking and answering questions is known.
The searchable LinkedIn Groups, feature allows users to establish new business relationships by joining alumni, industry, or professional and other relevant groups.
A mobile version of the site was launched in February 2008 which gives access to a reduced feature set over a mobile phone. The mobile service is available in six languages: Chinese, English, French, German, Japanese and Spanish.