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Networking Online and In Person

For successful executives, leaders and entrepreneurs alike, there’s never a point in your career where networking is done. Just because you feel you’ve reached the top or don’t have time for it, networking—especially “offline”—is tremendously profitable in attracting new opportunities, ideas and talent.

While digital networking is important, with 80 percent of global CEOs engaging socially on LinkedIn, it will never replace going out and actually cultivating and building your network.

How can executives and researchers ensure that they’re using social media effectively, efficiently and lawfully?

Social media is a staple in the career marketing mix today. Recent research from the Pew Institute shows that social media usage has risen significantly from adults over the age of 50 over the last decade. But only one-third (35%) of adults over the age of 65 use social media for any purpose. Do executive search firms, whose businesses hinge on long-standing and trusting relationships, really lean on social media as much as higher volume recruiters? How much time should executives looking to establish new relationships with executive search firms spend on social media and which sites should they prioritize?

As an executive, your time is valuable and opportunities to pursue personal goals can be limited. However, in today’s social economy, developing, optimizing, and continuously maintaining your social network is critical to your professional reputation, your brand and building your community. Your social network also plays a key role in positioning you for your next career opportunity and demonstrating your ability to deliver key business results.

BlueSteps recently hosted an #ExecCareer Chat on the topic of executive expats, featuring Rainer Morita, BlueSteps Executive Career Services, and John Touey, Salveson Stetson Group Inc.

Some of the questions asked included:

When creating, building and maintaining a network consisting of both fellow executives and search consultants alike, LinkedIn can be vital tool as it allows you to strengthen existing connections and make new ones with ease. However, it is important to make sure that your approach to LinkedIn networking is focused and strategic to boost its effectiveness.

To make sure your LinkedIn networking efforts are fully optimized for success, here are three key fundamentals of LinkedIn networking for executives.
 

Networking is about pursuing opportunities to meet and build new relationships. With the advent of social media we have all become “armchair networkers.” There is less motivation to meet in person with anybody. That is unfortunate, as in-person networking is the best dress rehearsal for interviewing. Further, people you meet in-person are easier to cultivate afterwards into a substantial business relationship.

Given that career success is based on not just on who you know, but who you get to know, building a network is a lifelong endeavor. To facilitate your efforts, here are some in-person networking tips formatted for attending a talk, but they can easily be modified to accommodate a sit down dinner or a trade show.
 

Many executives think the professional promotion they put online will jeopardize their employment with their current company. They don’t want their employer to think they are actively looking for a job. Thus, they deliberately withhold information on LinkedIn (and other social sites), refuse to get recommendations and expand their social networks with new contacts.

Any career transition requires making your professional competencies visible online, as that’s where search firms and employers look. Though there is no avoiding visibility, you can approach it without risk by blogging in any language. Making a career transition can take the most advantage of a blog with least risk of your employer’s retribution.
 

Know Your Audience

In any communication medium, the #1 rule is: Know your audience! If you know little or nothing about the people who will be receiving your message, you are, in all likelihood, wasting your time by trying to deliver it. What is known as the shotgun approach does not work. At best, it means your unfocused or misdirected message might reach a few of the people you wanted to reach; at worst, it makes you look like a poor communicator.

While no easy answers or miracle solutions exist for tough economic times, a recession economy creates a "networking" job market and certainly empowers individuals to take hold of their own career management. Employment opportunities arise out of our network of relationships, not from plentiful job postings and hiring-hungry corporations.

Social media can be a time-waster, but it can also be a helpful networking tool that can help you make yourself more visible to hiring executives and executive search consultants. Social media should be used as a way to promote your thought leadership expertise that will help you stand out amongst the large pool of executive candidates.