By Caroline M.L. Potter, Yahoo! HotJobs
Not networking online yet? Millions of potential contacts are only a couple of clicks away -- and you can even network from the comfort of your own home.
According to a survey by Robert Half International (RHI), 62 percent of senior executives believe that professional networking sites will be a key part of their companies' recruiting efforts in the next three years. Notes Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of RHI, "Networking sites can be used to identify new career opportunities, create online profiles that highlight one's skills and experience, and build a roster of business contacts over time."
If you're not sure where to start making virtual connections that will help you in the real world, read on for five tips from RHI.
Make Your Profile Perfect
The first step in most online networking is creating a profile on the site of your choosing. Take care and time when you do it. RHI advises professionals, "Pay as much attention to the content of your online profile as you would the information in your resume." You should highlight your professional skills as opposed to your personal interests. Be sure, also, that your profile is well-written and doesn't include typos or careless errors.
Ask for an Endorsement
Some online networking sites allow users to recommend one another. If the site you join does, the experts at RHI urge you to ask others to comment on your work. "These testimonials help hiring managers learn more about your experience and work ethic," according to the world's first and largest staffing services firm specializing in accounting and finance. So, don't hesitate to ask folks to praise you professionally online.
Your network is only as good as the people in it, so make sure yours is chock-full of helpful professionals. According to RHI, "The more quality contacts you have, the better." If you're starting from scratch, start by inviting your close friends and coworkers to join your network. Then look over their networks to see if you might benefit from knowing the people they know.
Mind Your Manners
Because recruiters visit professional -- and sometimes personal -- networking sites to seek out fresh talent, ensure your profiles don't contain anything that could be embarrassing. RHI experts say, "Make sure that any public messages or images you post don't detract from your professional image." Privacy settings can help protect your profile, but it's best to eliminate anything questionable altogether.
Keep Up the Good Work
It may be tempting to neglect your online network once you find a job, but it's best to nurture it. In trying economic times, one can never be sure when a layoff may be looming. The professionals at RHI concur: "Online networks aren't just job search tools; they also help you stay up-to-date on industry trends, find mentors who can offer valuable career advice, and alert you to upcoming events and educational opportunities."