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Use Your PALs to Network Effectively

You can now find hundreds of discussion groups on the Web that are specifically targeted to job seekers. They attract large numbers of people, but unfortunately, don't do most of them much good. Sure, it may help to commiserate with others in transition, but if your goal is to find a new job, there are better places to network.

The mythology about online job seeker groups is that they are places where those in transition can help one another advance their job search. While they certainly have that potential, however, they seldom enhance a person's occupational brand or connect them to appropriate employment opportunities.

Instead, the discussions typically take one of two tacks. They provide answers to job search questions and information about employers or they devolve into grousing about recruiters and the state of the job market. And yes, that insight and venting may be helpful, but the time and effort they require can yield better results elsewhere.

To network most effectively, use one or more of your PALs. They are the Web-sites of:

  • Your Professional association or society;
  • The Alumni association of your undergraduate and, if appropriate, graduate school;

    and

  • A LinkedIn group that focuses on your profession, industry or both.

In order to wring the best results from these sites, however, it's important to remember your goal. You're investing your time and effort for just two reasons: first, to help you find a great employment opportunity and second, to help ensure you're selected for it. And, to accomplish those two objectives, you have to practice the Golden Rule of Networking whenever you visit those sites.

A Better Way to Network

As with networking at conferences and meetings in the real world, networking online involves more than just showing up. The word says exactly what it means. It's netWORK, not net-sit-back-and-have-a-pina-colada. You have to participate in the conversations your peers are having - the discussion forums, chats and listservs - that are underway at the PALs.

No less important, you have to participate in the right way. The Golden Rule of Networking is as simple as it is profound. You have to give as good as you get. In other words, if you want people to be helpful to you, you have to be helpful to them first.

How does that typically occur? Unlike job seeker discussion groups, the dialogue at the PALs is typically about profession or industry-related trends, issues, work problems and opportunities. You network, therefore, by contributing your occupational expertise and experience so that your peers can use it to their advantage. You share your talent with them and, in the process, you both build up the stature of your occupational brand and encourage others to be helpful to you.

There are only so many hours in the day, and you have only so much energy for networking. Given those constraints, it's important that you network at the right places and in the right way. While online job seeker groups can provide a measure of psychological or emotional support, the peer discussion forums, chats and listservs of your PALs are the most productive spots for networking, and the Golden Rule of Networking is the key to your success there.

Thanks for reading,
Peter

Visit my blog at Weddles.com/WorkStrong.

October 2012
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