This is the second half of an extended post on professional networking online. The first post is here.
Option 2 – ‘publish’ your network and tell the world who you know
Which brings me to another option: making your network viewable online. This involves a little bit of bravery on the individual user's part, because all the relationships that have been built up over a career suddenly become exposed to a bunch of people that didn't previously have access to this snapshot particular snapshot of your work history. Sure, there are ways to manage who can see your network; choices to make between letting just those in your network see the list, or the wider network tool members or anyone online at all. The bonus with this option is that once those connections are made viewable by others, eventually someone will look at your network list and see some familiar faces and think 'hey! what a great person who knows all these people I know, I wonder if we can have a conversation'. Or at least that's the hope.
Option 3 – connect with people you would otherwise not meet
The third option isn't actually an option, it's more a decision and attitude that needs to be adopted. At some point the use of using an online tool to manage an offline professional network will reach its end. This is where the decision needs to be made about whether to try extending your network through connections made online. All sorts of social cues apply in this situation, so it needs to be well thought out.
This is super-maximised when people combine their social network with their professional network, by linking their Facebook and LinkedIn pages, for example (Penelope Trunk, creator of Brazen Careerist promotes this and does it really well). This requires even more bravery, but with that risk comes the potential for an even bigger pay-off. It brings multiple sections of your life into one melting-pot, making your world a little bit smaller, but also potentially larger at the same time.
The only other thing I would say is that by choosing to add to your network through online connections, make sure those connections are genuine. Executing a massive 'add to your network' drive similar to the myspace friending of ages past, is not a genuine action, and will get ignored as a result. That's where the harsh truth of socialising online is so clear in comparison to socialising in person: because a computer has been placed between the two people interacting, the need to pussy-foot around a blatantly rude act is removed. People are a lot less worried about ignoring you online than they are in person, especially if you’re not valuing them in the first place.
Once you’re on board with the genuine connection thing, make those genuine connections ones that build on the purpose of networking. It’s very easy to use connections online to post ‘great idea!’ and click the like or thumbs up button just to let people know you’re there and you like what they’re doing. It’s harder, but potentially more rewarding for both of you to actually question or build upon the connection with more ideas, proposals and suggestions. After all, the point of networking is to extend your field of connections in the hope of bringing in more work and building a name for yourself. It’s hard to do this with just a list of 1000 people you don’t really know and have never exchanged ideas with. Put yourself out there and you’ll probably (hopefully) find others are not only doing the same, but they appreciate that you are too.