Who Do You Know?

We’ve all heard that career advancement often springs from “who you know, not what you know.” Today, web users are declaring “who they know,” and they want everyone to see. Online social networking sites like Myspace, Facebook and Friendster, and professional networking sites like Linkedin.com, allow users to tell the world everything about themselves, from their hobbies to their education levels to a listing of their personal connections.

Though the developers of these sites regularly market to adolescents and college students, professionals and job seekers of all ages have started using social network sites to “market” themselves. Their profiles focus on professional and academic achievements, similar to those found on resumes and cover letters. Sometimes professional networkers customize their profiles by including hobbies, photographs and blogs to make them stand out from the millions of other profiles already on the web. But most importantly, their profiles include listings of other site users who are associated with the profile creator. These listings of connections show the world not only who the users know, but who their connections know. Perhaps somewhere down the line, one of these people can give them leads that will jumpstart their careers!

Whether you choose to create your professional profile on Myspace and Facebook, or whether you opt to market your skills on a business-oriented networking site like Linkedin.com, the following guidelines will help you best utilize the resources available to online networkers.

  1. Include as much information as possible in your profile. A wide variety of information allows you to reconnect with the maximum number of former acquaintances, coworkers and classmates. .

  2. Highlight your work ethic by listing awards and association memberships.

  3. Send invitations to current and past coworkers, classmates and other acquaintances. When sending an invitation to someone you may have met a few times but do not know on a personal level, you may want to remind them of how you know each other. Someone you met at a library conference may only know you by your first name.

  4. Adding connections increases your visibility, but choose your contacts carefully! This is not a popularity contest. Make sure you are associated/linked to others with a work ethic similar to yours.

  5. Just as in real life, only write recommendations for those you would truly recommend. Remember these sites are online and viewable to many people. Do you want to be professionally associated with a poor or apathetic worker?

  6. Also, remember that you can ask people to write recommendations for you! Ask co-workers or others who can vouch for your good work to leave a recommendation. A great time to ask for recommendations is when a recent success of yours is still fresh in their mind.

  7. Prior to submitting an application or going on an interview, learn more about the people who will be perusing your application or conducting your interview. Search the organization’s Linkedin members and see if you can find any activities or connections that you can mention in an interview. Perhaps you’ve graduated from the same school, belong to the same association or love the same hobbies! You can also get a glimpse of the employee turnover of the organization – view how many people have worked at the organization and how long they have stayed.

  8. Learn more about other professionals and leaders within your communities. Who are their previous employers? What are their activities and interests? Such information can be great conversation starters at events and conferences. Also, next time you’re looking to fill an open position or find a new vendor, you might find that your acquaintance has a connection to someone who comes highly recommended. Perhaps they’ll even give you a deal!

  9. View other librarians’ profiles to learn more about new library associations, listservs, awards and activities.

  10. Find your next job through Linkedin! You can search the site for job openings and also see if you have any relationship with the job poster. Maybe someone you know can introduce you.

  11. Place your profile link on business cards or as your email signature. This is an easy way to promote your activities and possibly find new connections.

  12. Don’t forget to practice Internet Safety. Internet safety is not just for children. Don’t include your personal information, such as home phone numbers or addresses, on your profile. For social networking sites that allow photographs, make sure you do not include photographs that may show your home address, telephone number, and license plate numbers or other identifying information such as street signs. And don’t post photos of others without their permission.

  13. Remember: be careful of what you post on your professional profile. Before posting, remember that “the Internet has a long memory.”  Don’t post anything that may harm your professional image. For example, instead of leaving a nasty review of a previous place of employment, choose not to leave a review, and refrain from criticizing co-workers. If you have chosen a networking site that allows photographs, carefully select which photographs to post. If you’re wearing fewer clothes in a photograph than you would normally wear to work, opt not to post the photo. If you’re not sure what is appropriate, try sticking to this advice: if you do not think it would be appropriate to say or wear to a job interview, step away.

If you’re interested in promoting yourself, searching for a job, or searching for job candidates, consider using a social networking site like Myspace, Facebook or Linkedin.com. These sites are easy to use and are often free. And business-focused site Linkedin.com is the choice of over 140 library employees. Be proactive about your career by exploring an exciting new resource.