Build your community!

31 Aug

Social media are more than ever great tools for personal branding and job searching. If you read the previous articles on this blog, you are now fully aware of the advantages of professional networks such as Linkedin. If you followed the different steps detailed in the articles, then your profile is quite complete and you are now, hopefully, confident that your Linkedin profile will sell you correctly. Now what?

Well, now is time to make smart use of it and to connect with people: your peers, ex-colleagues, college classmates and… recruiters! Your profile can be complete and relevant, you won’t go very far without any connections. Recruiters might be seduced by your profile, what will they think about the fact that you have no or only very little connections? Below are some personal tips and advices about connecting and networking on social media. I hope you’ll find them useful!

1) Think about the future

Whether you are a student, a young professional, or a newly out-of-work individual, the vision is the same: look ahead, plan correctly and bet first on your existing network. We all have a network of potentially very influential contacts!

When I first created my Linkedin account, I refused connection requests from college students. I thought that recruiters would think it was only an extension of my Facebook network. But then I realized that my college students’ network was a great one. First, adding classmates show that, indeed, you went to college and that you were socially active enough to be now connected with your peers. Recruiters want to know you are sociable and considered by other people. This is actually why some recruiters check Facebook profiles: they are not looking for awkward pictures (at least, I hope so!); they are looking if you are the “I am very popular and I have thousands of friends”, the “regular kind of guy with some hundred folks” or on the contrary the “I’m a bit weird, my mom is my only FB friend”. Well, Linkedin is the same. Your network reflects your professional sociability!

Do you want another good argument for adding your classmates on Linkedin? They may be students or young graduates for now, who says they won’t be managing teams, creating their own companies, or working for your dream firm in a few years? If they are classmates today, they might be recruiters or CEO tomorrow!

You may not be a student anymore, but the advices stay the same: connect with your previous colleagues and fellow job seekers, they are the first level of a powerful professional network. Social media are not only for self promoting but are primarily for building communities: start building your own community!

How? Click on “Connect”, check the “Classmate” (or “Friend”) line, and then select the institution you went to together.

2) Stay in touch

The second level of your network can be constituted of influential people you already know. These people are your professors, previous internship directors, or ex-managers. I am sure you have, or had, at some point, a good enough relationships with teachers, administrative agents at school, or with former team managers to connect with them now. Professional networks such as Linkedin or Viadeo have the advantage that sending a connection request does not mean “let’s be friend and cross barriers”. It just mean “let’s stay in touch” so be careful about the message you send along the request. Make sure to remind these people of the various occasions you worked together and the reasons why you wish to stay in touch. You can actually even say something like this: ‘Dear professor, I had a very pleasant time this year and I am very happy we got to meet and to interact during class. I would like to stay in touch with you, and keep you posted on my professional route. With Best Regards, F.” Simple, polite and sincere; they don’t need more!

Same for your internship referent or ex-boss: as long as you had a good relationship while working together, there is no reason why they would refuse to connect with you now!

How? Click on “Connect”, check the “Colleague” or “We’ve done business together” lines, and then select the position you were holding when you worked together.

3) Dare to ask

The third level of your community is composed of the people you dare to connect with. If you are looking for a job, you’ll have to connect with recruiters and other professionals within your targeted industry sooner or later! I know this may be the scariest step.

The key to connect with people you don’t know is to play it slowly. Explain that you wish to connect with them to know more about their industry, their company or their function. But do not jump on them in the first email by asking for help or directly for a job. The best way to get in touch with people who you don’t know yet is to ask them to talk about themselves, and not ask anything from them! You can say something such as “Dear John, I wish to connect with you as I can read you are working in the hospitality industry. I have been interning a local hotel and I would love to know more about your tasks within your company”. There can be only two responses to your request: 1) they refuse and that’s ok, or 2) they accept and you can then start the real discussion!

How? Click on “Connect”, then check the “Other” line. You will be asked to enter the email address of the contact. You can try to look on search engines or on his/her company website to find it. Otherwise, check the “I don’t know John” line.

Remember that a connection refusal is not an insult. Don’t get upset or give up. The secret of connecting and building community is about sharing. You just need to explain these people what you two have in common! Because building your network (or what I like to call your ‘community’) is not only about adding connections. It is about connecting and sharing! And this is what next week’s post will be about: optimising your community. So stay tuned!


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