Shari Stauch is Creator and CEO of Where Writers Win, and she has extensive experience in marketing emerging authors. To learn more about Shari, visit her company's website at WritersWin.com.
"Life's just a cocktail party..." - Mick Jagger, "Shattered"
In today's virtual world, the advantages of having a professional online presence cannot be overstated, especially when it comes to job seekers. It's inexpensive to maintain an online presence through social media engagement and blogging, and it's the perfect way to meet and great potential colleagues.
Learning to engage the "right" way in this brave new digital world is just as important as engaging with someone in person. You want to develop a written voice that's casual yet professional - enticing yet not too wordy.
In short, your virtual interactions are much like any networking cocktail party, but in print.
And unlike the live cocktail party, you don't need to dress up or wear uncomfortable shoes (until the live interview!). You won't need to fill the tank or grab a taxi, travel across town or across the country. You won't have to wander the room, looking for others with the same interests as you, hoping to catch them before they leave. You won't even need to buy a drink...
Working the virtual room is like working any room:
- You go in not knowing many people, and hug the wall a bit until you get your bearings. In the virtual world, that means joining relevant groups on LinkedIn or Facebook, then watching the discussions until you're ready to join in with a well-placed comment of your own.
- You introduce yourself, get introduced to others, and have the good sense to ask those you "meet" about their own interests and expertise.
- Soon you'll be confident enough to make introductions between your connections; getting known as a connector is a bonus, no matter your career goals.
- As you get to know the people you meet, you can share other things besides what you "do." That can include a great restaurant recommendation, a good read, whatever you can share that will help you foster better and closer connections, whether they're down the block or across the ocean.
And a few don'ts
All this fun does come with a surgeon general's warning: What you wouldn't do at a live party (unless you want to send the people you meet scurrying off to refill their drinks) is shout your presence and talk to everyone you meet as if you were on stage and they paid to see you perform. They didn't. The same rules apply online.
The other big no-no online is the "I must be right" argument. At a live party, you have the advantage of verbal and visual cues to tell you when to stop yammering. But the only cue you'll get online is that people will stop engaging with you, unfollow you, or in extreme cases, block you.
In this way, the online community is often considered a kinder, gentler form of making career connections, but infinitely more powerful. Rather than shouting your message, you're inviting influential people to get to know you. Then you're inviting them - if they like you - to tell their associates to get to know you, too.
Using the virtual party to your best benefit
Once you've established which online parties you'd like to frequent (meaning social networks populated with the people you need and want to meet), you can use your online power to achieve some of your goals.
By interacting in various groups and forums, it's easy to quickly establish yourself as a credible expert in your field and expand your prospects - something that could take years to accomplish in the live arena.
How do you approach the online world of networking? Share your tips below!