Advantages: E-networking allows you to create a virtual network of contacts, who can provide critical information on job leads, industry trends and unadvertised position openings. These are all contacts that you would never have made using traditional networking methods. Furthermore, online interactions do not involve phone calls or face-to-face meetings, so this eliminates any first-encounter "jitters" you may experience in real world settings. Perhaps the two most important benefits of e-networking relate to its immediacy:
- Networking online does not require an introduction from a primary contact on your networking list.
- You get immediate responses from people. Email eliminates the possibility of having to play phone tag. This increases the productivity of your networking endeavors.
To maximize your networking efforts, consider the following strategies for effective online contact making:
- Initiate contacts widely, but continue selectively. Because you don't have personal introductions to pave the way when networking on the web, it is important to make every effort to put yourself in front of as many people as possible. You will probably go through many more responses than you will find useful networking partners. Thus, it is important to cast a wide net in the early stages of e-networking.
- Identify yourself. Because you are using these dialogues for business purposes only (i.e., to enhance your job search efforts), there is no reason to use an alias or any other pretense that would make someone uncomfortable and therefore reticent to network with you. People who are also networking for business and/or career reasons will recognize that, and they will respond accordingly.
- Follow standard business courtesy. Make your communications friendly but also respectful. You take your job search seriously, so you should take networking seriously, even if it takes place by email. Do not use acronyms or abbreviations (e.g. BTW, FYI, IMHO, etc.) in any of your business communications.
- Develop an email template for your job search. When you identify an e-networking prospect, begin corresponding with him or her using an email template that displays the following information:
- How you located or identified that person as a potential contact (e.g., both members of the same networking site, both went to the same university, etc.)
- The nature of your connectivity (e.g., both worked for the same company, both worked in the same field/industry, both have similar goals, etc.)
- A request for further information about a particular industry, about open positions, etc.
A Note on E-Networking Sites:
Initially, the most effective networking websites are profile-driven ones. These sites ask you to create - and maintain through updates - a personal profile about your experience and occupational background. You can then search for people who share your common interests. Membership is free but mandatory.