When it comes to your career, you can never be too connected. In today’s economy, especially, your relationships with professional contacts can help you uncover job leads and even land a new position. Many creatives are using professional and social networking sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook to stay in touch with members of their networks and enhance their job search.
However, the ease of connecting to others through these sites can lead to pitfalls, ranging from privacy concerns to online etiquette issues. Following are suggestions to keep in mind when using these ever-evolving online tools:
Mind your Online Manners
The casual atmosphere of online networking sites doesn’t mean you should forgo all formalities. How you approach individuals through these services can have a lasting impression. If you contact someone with whom you don’t have an existing relationship, for example, it’s best to establish rapport before asking for help with a job search or professional problem.
One of the most effective approaches is to ask a mutual acquaintance to reach out to someone you want to connect with on your behalf to make the introduction. Some networking websites even have a special feature that allows users to request an introduction to someone via a shared contact.
Choose your Friends Wisely
Be selective about accepting solicitations from people who ask you to join their network. Potential employers may reach out to your contacts during the reference check process, and you want to make sure everyone they speak with reflects well on you.
Also, you might consider keeping a strict boundary between your private and professional networks: Use LinkedIn for professional purposes and Facebook for personal use, for instance. If you engage in social networking for purely personal reasons, be sure your privacy settings are used effectively.
Get the Skinny on Yourself
Thanks to personal websites, blogs, social networking site profiles and newsgroup comments, it’s easy for potential employers to dig up information about you. Keep in mind that just one heated opinion you posted on a designer forum can come up in a search.
To see what a hiring manager may find out about you, conduct your own web search using your name on multiple search engines. If your name is common, refine the search by using your middle initial, alma mater or employer. If you unearth information that could hurt your professional credibility, contact the site’s owner or webmaster and ask that the content be removed. Also, if you find photos of yourself that are far from flattering — from your wild college days, for example — untag them.
For creative professionals, demonstrating your savvy with online networking sites is essential. Not only can these forums help you expand your base of contacts, but being familiar with the rules that govern their use could prove attractive to employers, which are increasingly developing marketing campaigns targeted to users.