In real life, we each have a vast network of personal connections via our friends, family, and colleagues. With the internet—and especially through social media—the gap between these individuals grows smaller and smaller. In fact, according to a 2016 study, just three and a half people separate each person using the social networking giant.
So, if most people are just an "add" button away, how does this change the dynamic of professional networking? How can you positively leverage social networks to boost your career prospects and discover new job opportunities?
You Can Talk The Talk
In the age of social media, the adage "it's not what you know, but who you know" has never been more relevant. A network of professional contacts can be the difference between landing your dream job and being overlooked for a better-connected candidate.
The question is: How do you use your social networks to meet the kinds of people who can help you break into your desired profession? How do you ensure it's your name that finds its way to the top of a prospective employer's search results? It can be a bit of an overwhelming task, but if you start early, networking can be easier than you think.
The key is to choose the right channels. While Facebook is great for keeping in touch with friends and family, it's not an ideal destination for prospective employers to find you and learn more about your skills. That's where a website like LinkedIn comes in. Here, you have access to the world's largest network of professionals, who can introduce you to new employment opportunities and assist you in reaching your career goals faster.
A LinkedIn profile is like a billboard with your name on it. It can be used to grow your professional network or simply act as a live résumé, where you can direct others to find out more about your qualifications and employment history. And it’s not just for full timers, either. More than 200,000 college students on the lookout for internship and entry-level positions sign up for LinkedIn every month.
But Can You Walk The Walk?
OK, you've taken the steps to improve your networking. You have a Rolodex of professional contacts across multiple social media channels; you fire off regular status updates, and you have a brand new portfolio site, with an up-to-date copy of your résumé and some examples of your most recent work.
It's only a matter of time before the job offers start rolling in, right? Well, let's not get ahead of ourselves.
While having a social media presence can be a major asset to your professional profile, it's not the golden ticket to your dream job. You need to put in effort to discover new career paths and opportunities—you can’t just expect that they will come to you. And of course, your skills, education, and experience play a pretty significant role in furthering your career as well. You can be the most charming person on the planet, but people will quickly catch on if you have nothing to back it up with.