Networking Now

By Paula Santonocito

Man and woman shaking hands and exchanging business cardsCareer articles tout the advantages of networking. But what exactly does networking entail in today’s online world? As important, how do you merge networking online with live interaction?

When You’re On

If you’re confused about networking, you’re not alone. Single-minded women sometimes equate networking with socializing, when in fact the two are quite different.

There’s no doubt that online networking has a social component. But generally, when they talk about the value of networking, career experts are referring to professional interaction.

Today, a lot of that interaction takes place online, and some of it occurs at social networks, which adds to the confusion.

Nevertheless, if you’re networking with colleagues, whether at a business site like LinkedIn or a so-called social site like Facebook, you’re furthering your professional connections.

It’s really no different than meeting with colleagues for drinks after work or sharing ideas and experiences over coffee. Except now, with so many people working virtually, those conversations often take place online.

When You’re Off

Nevertheless, there is still value in live, face-to-face interaction.

Although social and business networking websites allow for building connections, the spontaneity and warmth of in-person meetings can’t totally be replicated online.

Perhaps this is why live job fairs remain so popular, and why pink slip parties, casual get-togethers for job seekers and employers that became popular after the dot-com fallout, have made a comeback.

For a lot of networkers, an online smile or cyber handshake doesn’t cut it, particularly when that networking is a critical component of a job search.

To quote the late great Marvin Gaye, “Ain’t nothing like the real thing.”

From the Screen to the Scene

This doesn’t mean you have to choose between online and offline networking. Each can facilitate the other.

As online business and social networking evolves, so do new opportunities. And some of those opportunities have to do with live events.

Many people now share information about seminars, conferences, job fairs, pink slip parties, and more at sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

If no one in your LinkedIn or Facebook network has provided such information, consider joining groups at these sites related to your industry or profession that can help you tap into live events.

At Twitter, you can search on various terms in order to follow a thought leader in your industry or a particular membership organization that is likely to provide information about live meetings.

But you don’t have to be a networking wallflower; you can initiate inquiries.

At all three venues you can let people know you’re looking to attend a live professional event, indicating what type and where.

By the same token, if you’re scheduled to attend a live event, you can let your colleagues know where you’ll be and when and ask if anyone else will be attending.

Finally, don’t overlook professional associationsas resources for merging online and offline networking. Many of these organizations have online networks, and they offer live events.

When it comes to networking, the wider you cast your net, the more opportunities you’ll find.

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