Have you ever heard the expression ‘it’s not what you know but who you know’? It’s a saying you may hear throughout your life, but is perhaps most important when you’re starting your studies – and then again when you’re starting your career.
Networking allows you to discover opportunities you may not have found on your own. It gives you the chance to learn new things, from new people, across various industries. You can also learn what employers are looking for in professional candidates and, perhaps most importantly, employers can get to know you as well. This gives you a major competitive advantage in the jobs market.
For international students studying online or looking for new ways to tap into professional networks in Australia and around the world, networking can help you land a job now or after graduation.
So how can you network online? And how can you make professional connections in Australia (or anywhere else in the world) if you’re not physically there? How can you make sure potential employers see you and ‘give you a go’?
There are many ways you can grow your professional network online. The key is to embrace technology. Here are a few handy tricks you can use to build your professional network online.
1.Update your social media accounts
When it comes to online networking, social media is very powerful. Platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter help you to showcase your skills and make new connections. Much like traditional marketing agencies for major companies, social media can be your own marketing tool. These channels (‘socials’) can help you develop your own ‘brand’. Let’s take a closer look.
LinkedIn is the most popular professional networking website, with users in over 200 countries. It’s no surprise that employers have seen the value of this platform. In fact, more than 57 million companies have LinkedIn profiles. Since employers are also on LinkedIn, and you should be too. Be sure to create a profile and update it regularly. This gives recruiters an up-to-date view of your work experience and skills. Plus, it could boost your chances of finding employment.
With approximately 2.8 billion global monthly users (as of December 2020), Facebook has so many professional networking opportunities. For instance, there are plenty of groups you can join to connect with people in your field from all over the world. Hoping to start a career in marketing? Join Facebook groups like Digital Marketers Australia or Digital Marketing Tips & Jobs. In such groups, you can start valuable discussions and other interactions with industry leaders.
Twitter is another amazing social media tool for online networking. So many business owners and companies have their own public Twitter account. You can follow these accounts to see what they’re working on and what’s important to them. This will give you some great talking points to bring up in your interactions with them. You can also use your own Twitter account to showcase some of your biggest professional accomplishments. Doing this will help catch the eye of potential employers and colleagues.
Social media awareness
With any public-facing social media tool, it’s wise to practice some good behaviours so that your profile (and you, as the person behind the profile) are not overlooked for future opportunities. These behaviours include avoiding engaging in arguments and disagreements on public online forums, as well as keeping political opinions to yourself and your closest friends (and offline, if possible).
A commitment to managing your online presence and contributions to public discussions will help you enormously. For example, if you’re keen to become a journalist, then remaining impartial online means you’ll retain a professional approach and convey a commitment to unbiased reporting. Your opinion matters, but it’s important to figure out where and when to share that opinion (and who with).
Lastly, ask yourself if the words you’re about to post could offend. If the answer to that is maybe, then you may wish to reconsider posting it. It’s fine to raise awareness for charities and health causes, but sharing posts that incite hatred, violence, or encourage protests could damage future career opportunities.
Some social media platforms have built-in private group functions allowing you to engage with your closest friends in a way that only your circle of friends will see, where you can post photos or information semi-privately. But remember, publication is publication and even though a group is private, exercising caution is always the best option. Once you click on ‘post’, you have no control over where your words could end up (or in whose hands).
Platforms also have privacy settings that can allow you to decide what the public sees (and help you to keep your profile safer from those who may try to steal key information from you, such as your birth date or email address).
Each social media user has a digital footprint. Simply being aware and careful about your digital footprint and how this may impact employment opportunities, is important.
2.Message people directly
In the world of online networking, don’t underestimate the value of direct communication. Did you love an article written and published by a CEO in your field? Tweet at them or send them a private message to pass on the compliment. Did a former colleague post a job advertisement on LinkedIn that you’d be perfect for? Send them a message to let them know you’re applying so they can keep an eye out for your application when they receive it.
You may have an amazing online portfolio or social media presence but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re making real connections. When you engage directly with people, you’re more likely to get a response and create new professional relationships. If they see that you’re keen to join their network and can add value to an employer or industry, you’ll be called on more quickly than someone who has merely submitted an application among the many other applicants who have also applied for the same job.
3.Join online groups and communities
Online groups and communities allow you to build your professional network from anywhere. For example, XING is a great addition to your online networking toolkit. Once you create a profile, you can join groups with like-minded professionals to expand your network. Your education provider may also have its own careers and employment forum or online community where you can network with fellow students and careers advisors.
4.Attend online events
Just because you can’t attend networking events in person, doesn’t mean you can’t be there at all. As we move into a more digital world, event organisers are holding more virtual and hybrid events, such as webinars, that provide access to innovative thinkers and leading industry experts in a very inexpensive yet highly accessible way. Best of all, you can attend these virtual events from the comfort of your own home. Take advantage of these opportunities when they arise and get actively involved. If there’s an opportunity to ask or submit a question period, do it! If there’s a discussion platform as part of the virtual event, share an interesting observation of your own. If there’s an option to use your webcam during the event, turn it on. These strategies are great for ensuring you get your name, voice and face out to networks you may not be a part of, even when you can’t physically be there.
5.Connect with your peers
When it comes to online networking, reaching out to industry leaders and senior professionals is great. But, you should also remember to cultivate your relationships with peers as well. After all, one of your classmates could turn out to be your future colleague, supervisor or even business partner. And let’s not forget, some of your connections have the potential to become your closest friends throughout your life.