Being unemployed sucks. I know because I was out of work for 6 months before taking my current position in October. So when a complete stranger emailed to ask me to coffee to discuss his job search, I immediately agreed. He found me through a mutual acquaintance, who thought I might be able to share some insight on career opportunities in the startup world.
I chatted for 30 minutes with this gentleman, who is looking to change careers at 50-something, and shared with him some awesome networking events. He also asked about Twitter (my twit-putation preceded me, yet again) and I shared my thoughts on how to use it effectively in a job search.
The whole encounter got me thinking about the importance of networking, particularly in a close-knit community like Des Moines, and the role technology should (and shouldn’t) play.
Though I’m not a full-fledged geek, I’m usually an early technology adopter. I was the first person at my first job to get email (and then showed everyone else how to sign up). I’ve been on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter for years, and I’m now trying to figure out why I should care about Google+.
Over the years, I’ve incorporated all of these platforms into my networking repertoire, with varying results. Here’s some of what I’ve learned about successful “technetworking”:
1. Use it as a supplement. Technology should never replace face-to-face networking. For the introverted, sending an email or chatting on Twitter can be a non-threatening way to make an introduction. Likewise, technology may expose extroverts to shy (but important) folks they may not otherwise meet. While it is perfectly acceptable, even encouraged, to start networking via technology, it eventually needs to transition into real-life encounters to become a truly worthwhile relationship.
2. Give as much as you take. I can credit social media directly for finding me my last two jobs, for creating at least a dozen of my closest friendships, for uncovering what became some of my favorite social events, and for rewarding me with a variety of awesome prizes and swag. That said, I’ve used it to help others find jobs, locate lost pets, spread the word about charitable events, and much more. The best way to get someone to help you is to first help them.
3. Don’t expect overnight results. If you think you can sign up for all the social media sites tonight and have your dream job or thousands of loyal new customers tomorrow, you are living in Fantasy Land. Virtual relationships are as much work as real-life ones—and they should be. People want to work with and help people they care about, and that extends to the online world. I can’t help everyone in my social-media circle, so I let the selfish, impatient ones weed themselves out and instead focus my time on those who engage in a consistent and meaningful way.
4. Consider your image. Before getting started, think about why you are using a particular site. What do you want to accomplish? This will help guide both the image you project and the types of people with whom you interact. I’ve been told by some that I’m too open and crazy with my social media but there is actually a method to my madness (basically, in the words of Groucho Marx, “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.”). Remember that anything you say on the ‘Net never EVER goes away.
I’m sure there are many more “rules” for technetworking success and I’d love to hear what you’d add to my meager list. Please leave a comment with your suggestions. And if I’ve never met you, let’s start a conversation. (find me on Twitter or shoot me an email, bmollenkamp at me dot com) and see how well this technetworking thing really works.