When you’re reminded to focus on networking in order to forge new career connections, what usually comes to mind? Awkwardly shifting around a conference room with uncomfortable name tags asking strangers if they know of any job openings for you?
If that’s the case, then it’s time to update your perception of networking. And in 2015, like most of the questions of our lives, the answers lie online.
Job seekers would meet up with strangers in real life to talk about networking because there weren’t many other ways to meet new people and have a focused discussion on career paths. Career fairs and networking events, while awkward, were the best chance you had to connect with hiring managers and those who knew of job openings.
That’s not the case anymore, as resources like social media have changed how and when we can talk about career options. It’s fairly common now to see a friend on Facebook mention that they’re looking for a new job, and usually several comments accompany that post, with friends offering tips and connections. Just think how that’s replaced going through a rolodex or your alma mater’s yearbook for potential leads.
There are also plenty of staffing and recruiting firms, as well as hiring managers, on social media that are hoping to run into candidates like you. Interacting with their pages and asking for advice or specific opportunities could lead you to a new role — without having to munch on stale carrots in a networking event.
Trying to get your creative work in front of an editor, designer or director used to be nearly impossible — there were simply too many creative workers to compete for the time and attention of those who held positions of power in more creative fields. But thanks to the infinite space on the Internet, along with easy-to-access tools and websites, there’s plenty of room to highlight your talents and garner attention from others. Now you can share your work easily — plenty of creative outlets and companies have contests that you can submit your work to in the hopes of getting noticed by the right people.
Even if you’re not specifically looking for a creative role, creating a portfolio or website that showcases your skills will impress. If you work on cars, you might post photographs of the evolution of an automobile you’ve rebuilt, along with the steps you took. Or if you’re a writer, sharing your work samples can be a great way to get eyes on your ideas — sending a link to work samples is much less intimidating or risky than including several attachments in an email to a stranger. Simply including a link to your website on your social media accounts, business cards or resume is the most modern way to direct viewers to your work. It’s also much easier to ask a friend to pass along a link rather than give them a box full of pictures and scraps of paper to share with “the right person.”
Forums and event meet-ups
Before the Internet’s saturation of our daily lives, most people referred to newspapers or community announcements for networking opportunities, which were held because there were no better alternatives for getting people to talk about and share job opportunities. But now, because of online forums and event meet-ups, you can get as granular as you want to about career choices, and also target better job openings that align more with your career goals.
Even better, you can ask others for help on how to progress in your career. Twitter video chats, webinars and online forums are all excellent learning resources where you can crowdsource for answers to your career conundrums or forge new networking relationships for future opportunities. From the safety of their digital devices, you’ll be surprised how friendly and outgoing many naturally networking introverts are happy to help you in your career.
Today, networking looks very different from the tired cliché of a pocketful of business cards and a sweaty palm. The Internet, social media, digital portfolios, forums and event meet-ups are all excellent ways to network and further your career.
Susan Ricker researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues for CareerBuilder.