Recruiters, human resources managers, and hiring managers often use LinkedIn (LI) to find job candidates or expand their business networks. In an earlier post, I discussed LI as a model business networking site. LinkedIn and similar sites can be very useful tools in your job hunt. Your LI profile can contain information about your work experience, education, publications, recommendations from people who know you, and more. You can post your profile in public, for all to see. Alternatively, you can restrict others’ online access to it, making it private.
Here are a few tips for using business networking web sites, whether or not you’re a medical writer:
Networking demo account. Online networks come in many flavors, and you may like some more than others. Most networking sites have a demo, trial, or free account option. If you’re thinking of joining a network that’s new to you, consider using one of these freebie accounts before you plunge in. Check out the site’s features, services, membership, and reputation before you commit to posting lots of information or upgrading to a paid membership.
The point of the demo is mainly to see if you like the service and if its tools meet your needs.
While you demo, you may want to limit access to your profile to family, friends, and/or colleagues you trust, rather than making your information available to everyone. In so doing, you limit any damage if you make mistakes in setting up your profile, because you control who sees it.
Network referrals. A weakness of online business networking is that site members sometimes acquire contacts in their networks without knowing them. Don’t refer your network contacts to third parties if you don’t know the people you’re referring. If you refer an unknown contact to a third party, and the referred person is incompetent or dishonest, it reflects badly on you-because you made the referral.
Anger. Always avoid expressing anger online. Be aware that expressions of emotion online can be easily misinterpreted. After all, you can’t see facial expressions or body language in an email, blog, or public profile. One example of anger expression is using ALL CAPS in emails, blogs, and other web site content. The internet convention is that ALL CAPS is the online equivalent of SHOUTING. Don’t do it, unless you want your readers to think you are hostile (and understand that they may react in the same hostile tone). And if you’re angry, wait a while before you write an email response. Take time to cool down before replying. This can result in wording that is more balanced and less likely to fan those anger flames.
Privacy and security. If your profile is public, be sure you’re comfortable with its content’s being read by anyone, anywhere, at any time. Be aware that the content you post, or emails you send, can be downloaded. Once downloaded, you cannot pull those words back, even if you regret them. Nor can you control who reads them. Once online, your words are out of the box.
Be careful about posting your personal information on networking sites, too. This includes email addresses, phone numbers, mailing addresses, and other information used to establish identity (eg, driver’s license numbers). If you post someone else’s information, get their permission before you post.
Generous online persona. If you participate in online business networks, think about how you can help others, and how they can help you. Seek opportunities to facilitate introductions between people who may be of professional interest to each other. Practice helpful networking with a generous spirit and a positive outlook. It is the right thing to do, it yields big benefits to all when practiced reciprocally, and it could lead to a new job.
If you’d like to learn more about the art of online business networking, I recommend the book, The Connect Effect, by Michael Dulworth (Dulworth M. The Connect Effect: Building Strong Personal, Professional, and Virtual Networks. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.; 2008). It expands on the ideas in this post, and has even more strategies for using business networking sites to your marketing advantage.
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