Once upon a time, a very long time ago in Internet years, I wrote a webinar and publication on finding your next job with social media. I stumbled over it recently while cleaning up one of my archives. While lots of the individual pieces are badly out of date, the work as a whole is still relevant. This series is a new version of the old stuff, modernized for today.
Building Your Network
Serendipity is like hope: it’s a wonderful gift and we should never spurn it. However, it’s a terrible strategy. Building these digital assets isn’t enough. “Build it and they will come” hasn’t worked in years, if ever. We must be proactive in building our network, attracting people to us.
Build Before You Need It
The absolute worst time to build your professional network is when you desperately need it. Why? It’s very difficult during times of need to channel what’s known as Giver’s Gain.
In normal times, we engage in Giver’s Gain, providing value to our networks first without asking anything in return. We create, we share, we amplify, we connect. Later on, when we do have a need, we can simply ask and the social debts we’ve created in our favor often reap swift results.
When we’re actively hunting for work, human nature and psychology changes us. We ask with an expectation of receiving immediately, and that changes our language, how we interact with others. Network before you need it, if possible.
How to Build Your Network
Professional networking is about creating community, and community is composed of five building blocks, the 5Cs:
When we interact with others, we have to legitimately care about them. We can’t just feed random social media posts into scheduling software and walk away.
- Caring means interacting with the people you connect with.
- Caring means you put your community’s interests ahead of your own.
- Caring means you think of how your networking will benefit others.
Caring follows a sort of golden rule: if you don’t care about others, you give others no reason to care about you.
If we’re to successfully build our network, we shouldn’t proactively reach out to people who don’t share some kind of common ground with us. In professional network, that typically revolves around our work - the industry we work in, the role we perform, etc. Find your tribe, the people who you share common ground with.
Here’s a practical example: in Twitter search, type a job title in your profession. Below, I’ve entered CMO:
These are people I’d want to connect with, and in many cases I’ve reached out.
The third building block is connection, reaching out to people you want to connect with. Caring and commonality are prerequisites if you want to reach out and be received well. The worst sentence in all of professional network is probably…
“I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.”
I’ve seen that sentence thousands of times in my years on LinkedIn. It’s the default text in the invitation to connect. That sentence showcases that you don’t care and you haven’t a clue what common ground we share.
Follow people who are relevant to your work, as I showed in the example above. Connect with 5, 10, 25 people a day - but do so thoughtfully, with caring and connection.
The fourth building block is content. When people connect with us, they’ll often look to see what we share. Who are you, and what are you about? We make these judgements based on the content others share, so it’s reasonable to assume others do so. What do you share? How much do you share?
While I would never turn over my social media accounts entirely to machines, I do believe in using scheduling software to create a frame, a scaffolding of discussion starters. I share 5 interesting things I’ve read every day using software from Buffer.
As with connection, caring and commonality dictate what I share. If I didn’t care about my community, I would just share the fastest stuff I could find, regardless of quality. If I had no common ground with my community, I’d share irrelevant stuff. Instead, I share things my community relates to - marketing, analytics, a bit of entertainment, and curious content.
The final building block is conversation. If we’ve done the previous steps well - caring about our community, finding common ground, connecting with relevant people, sharing great content - inevitably others will talk to us. We can’t ignore them. We shouldn’t ignore them. Invest time to respond, to participate in conversations, to join group chats and discussions. Conversation is an opportunity to learn what else your community cares about - and for the job seeker, it’s an opportunity to identify hiring needs (gently).
If you never participate in conversations, you’ll never find those opportunities.
Next: Community Concepts
In the next post, we’ll examine some common guidelines and practices for building our community based on the 5Cs, including Metcalfe’s Law, social synchronization, and capture.
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