The key to using social media to benefit your career is networking. This article takes you through our 6 Top Tips on how to get started on using social media to unlock your networking skills and open the door to new opportunities.
What is networking and why do I need to do it?
Investopedia describes networking as the ‘exchange of information and ideas among people with a common profession or special interest’, usually in an informal social setting like events, fairs, or online (Investopedia, 2021).
People network to connect with like-minded professionals, to hear of new opportunities and events in their field, and keep up-to-date with everything going on in their industry. It is a practice that enables you to build relationships where you and your contacts can mutually help each other’s careers, but also opens the door to many opportunities, including accessing the hidden job market of word-of-mouth and referrals.
How does social media fit in networking?
The online and virtual nature of social media allows you to connect and communicate with thousands of people regardless of your, or their, geographic location. The truth is, you might already be networking on social media without even realising it! You are networking when you send your old Primary School teacher a friendship request on Facebook, or when you connect with your lawyer cousin on LinkedIn.
Social media also enables you to easily get in touch with your contacts, providing immediate responses as opposed to lengthy and delayed e-mails, whilst constructing a professional platform of your image that can be accessed by anyone, anytime. For this reason, you need to be careful about what you post and who you allow (friendly reminder to check those privacy settings!) to view what you share on the internet. Nevertheless, having a social media profile to professionally network is the easiest, most straightforward way to engage with prospective employers and professional contacts.
Let’s get started!
1. What do you want to achieve?
Before you embark on a digital networking journey, you need to first think about why you want (or need) to network. Is it because you are looking for a job and want to directly connect with employers? Are you looking to expand your network to connect with like-minded people that might be relevant to you in the future? Or are you looking to start a new career and want to discuss your desired career (and how to get there!) with an experienced professional? The list is endless but it is important to understand what you want to achieve from networking to effectively plan and, ultimately, achieve those goals.
Top Tip: Networking isn’t just about taking. When socialising and connecting with people, think about what value you can give to others. Is there any advice you can give them? Can you give them any assistance with their endeavours?
2. Access your current network
As previously stated, you’re most likely already networking without even realising it. But a good way to start is always by accessing your current network. Start by thinking about your personal relationships (family and friends), current and former colleagues, and valued clients. Once you have a good list of contacts, note all of these down and separate them into two categories: personal and professional. By separating your contacts into these categories you will be able to visualise where the people in your life fit, how to interact with each one of them, as well as who is missing in your contacts list!
Don’t forget to also export contacts from LinkedIn, Facebook, various unclogged business cards, and your online address book into this list!
3. PLAN PLAN PLAN
Now that you know what you want to get out of networking, and who you already have got in your network (as well as who is missing!), you can plan a social media networking plan to keep you focused whilst you dive in and boost your career.
Start by deciding the social media platforms that you want to use for networking. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are widely considered to be the most professional platforms out there (with Facebook scoring a total of just under 3 billion active users); however, we stand by LinkedIn as the go-to social media platform for professionals. Throughout our work with job seekers and employers, we have found that most professionals have a LinkedIn account but don’t know how to use it effectively. On LinkedIn, you can connect with like-minded professionals, share your achievements, and actively engage in the professional community you want to be involved in (as well as directly apply for jobs!).
The next step in your plan is to set up a power hour! By power hour we mean a designated time every day where you go on your social media platforms of choice and request new connections, join relevant groups, ask for advice and comment on your contacts’ activity to nurture those relationships.
Think back to what you want to get out of networking (expanding your network and influence, job hunting, or building a business) and design your plan according to the goal you want to achieve. For instance, if you’re networking because you want to find a new job, your plan might revolve around curating your profiles to recruiters and employers to make you digitally desirable, followed by connecting with those entities and messaging them inquiring for roles, and making you noticeable.
4. Make professional accounts
This is probably one of the most important steps to using social media to improve your career: only use a professional account on your social media platforms of choice to connect and professionally interact with your peers.
If you don’t have one, make sure you set up a new profile with a professional picture of yourself and an appropriate bio. Cater the content of that account to the audience that will view it (your professional contacts). For instance, it would be quite unprofessional to share a holiday picture of you drinking away bottomless margaritas in your favourite swimming costume, but you could share a snapshot of your holiday as long as it’s appropriate and benefits your social network. Most people like to see what their connections get up to when they’re not at work, and sharing that side of your life can be beneficial at times as you’re implicitly creating emotional connections between you and your contacts by making yourself seem more human and relatable (as opposed to a robot!). The key to what you share is to make sure everything is relevant and appropriate!
It’s also important to note that you should also check the privacy settings of your personal accounts – you wouldn’t want prospective employers and professional contacts to see any potentially embarrassing pictures or posts about yourself!
5. Connect and message
You’re all set! Now, you are finally able to dive into the world of networking in order to improve and work on your career.
If you’re looking to progress in your career or change paths, a good way to start is to connect with people doing the job that you want at companies that you’d like to work at – have a look at those people’s personal career paths and check if there is anything that would be beneficial for you that you haven’t done yet. Message those connections and ask for advice, comment on their posts, find inspiration in what they are doing. There are so many things you can do to build those relationships!
Depending on who you are messaging and for what networking purpose, we would advise you to write a few message templates beforehand so that you’re prepared and know exactly what to say when the opportunity comes. When messaging your connections, make sure to always address them by their name as opposed to the universal “Hello” or “Good afternoon,“ and remember to also sign off with your name at the end of the message.
6. Share accomplishments
Have fun networking and make it engaging!
Share your achievements and accomplishments, beneficial advice for your network, recommendations… the list is endless.
And make sure to always reply to comments on your posts to continue the conversation and reach more people in your industry!
As daunting as it may seem, persevere with your networking. Try to remember that traditional networking, and social media networking particularly, reaps long-term benefits. Once successful, however, it is a rewarding, lifelong activity that, when done consistently, will enable the continued growth of your personal and professional life.
Feeling a little overwhelmed? Don’t worry, Evenfields Careers and Evenfields Community is a great place to start with getting connected. Follow our social media pages for daily employability tips and advice, as well as our LinkedIn and Facebook groups (where you will be able to connect with hundreds of professionals from various fields in the UK). For more information and guidance, please check our range of Black Careers Matter employability courses, which cover social media networking and lots more!
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