Once someone who is looking for work has done their personal self-inventory, and it’s time to shift into information-gathering mode, their greatest single asset is their network. And as a coach or career adviser, the best way you can help a seeker is to teach them to be nimble, proactive – and, especially, appropriate - users of social media.
The good news is that tools like LinkedIn can do a great job of connecting you to people you know, and who (hopefully) know you. But using these systems effectively takes some practice, and many people seeking work don’t use them appropriately.
Here are some of the rules I try to follow.
. Try to focus as much as possible on one “platform,” as social networks are often called. LinkedIn is the most obvious for professional connections. But many people use Facebook, WhatsApp, or one of many other options. Scattering connections through a lot of platforms makes it much more difficult to groom a network.
. Be intentional about sending out connection requests. Don’t simply shotgun invitations to anyone that the social platforms suggest. Think about the kinds of connections that could be most useful, and try to develop them on an ongoing basis, not just when you’re looking for work.
. Have some guidelines when you accept requests from people who want to connect. I invariably accept when I’ve met someone, or been introduced by a mutual acquaintance. I’ll also commonly accept an invitation when I’ve had some email or messaging exchange with them.
. Have some guidelines when you refuse or ignore requests. If I haven’t met someone, or if they clearly have a business development role and probably want to sell me something, I often won’t accept connection requests. Whatever your guidelines, try to be consistent, but allow yourself to make exceptions.
But the most important strategy for managing your social network connections when you’re looking for work is:
. Give more than you get. Suggest new connections to people in your network, offering to introduce them to others they don’t know. Offer information or ideas to people who have helped you. Remember that these aren’t assets in some bank: They’re people, and they have their own goals and needs. Think of yourself as a connection enabler, and you’ll build up a bundle of goodwill that will be helpful to you when you need it.