Networking can conjure up many images but one of the most popular (or not!) is that of forced conversations with people in a room that you know you ought to speak to, feeling a little awkward, wondering what happens when the conversation becomes a little stilted.
The main plus of networks on social media is that they are built asynchronously and remotely - so no awkward conversations, no heart-thumping moments when you try to work your way into a conversation already happening.
So, for the introverts among you, building networks on social media allows you to perfect your back-story, craft your introductions, ask insightful questions - and wait for the answers to come back to you.
The other amazing thing about networks over social media is that you can connect to people the other side of the world. If you are looking to build your career internationally, this is definitely a huge plus.
To help you build a network that works for you, in the career you want to develop, here are my 5 top tips.
- Pick your network
Think about which social network would work best for you. Yes, you might choose to focus on LinkedIn - it is the biggest and arguably the best professional networking platform. There is a wealth of information on how to get the most from it and it also allows you to track the careers of University of Bath alumni. However, if you are interested in marketing, or customer relationships, or sport, or even politics - then twitter is the place to interact with the companies, influencers and leaders in their fields. For visual content and advertising, do look at instagram and of course subscribing to the right YouTube channels is also something to think about. And if you are quite new to this and want a small, friendly place to start - register for Bath Connection, the network of Bath Alumni who are there because they want to help you in your career!
- Build connections meaningful to your career
Who should you connect with? Your social network should contain people who are in careers you are interested in exploring, companies or organisations you would like to work for, people who have taken similar career paths to you but are at different stages, people with whom you share an interest, a university, a friend, a subject, a workplace. So the potential pool is very large! If you're not certain *how* to do this - come to one of our workshops, look at our resources or book an appointment with an Adviser to help you formulate a strategy. And remember - you are very welcome to connect with us!
- Match the message to the medium
What you say needs to be meaningful to the people who read it. So sharing of content you found interesting on LinkedIn, or commenting on posts made by your connections, is a lot better than passively lurking once connected. You can be a lot less formal, and more opinionated, on twitter - just make sure you build a consistent brand.
- Engage: the circle of niceness
It is so easy to think, at an early stage of your career, that you don't have anything to offer your network in return for the help they give you. So be on the look-out for content that you think your connections might find interesting and @ them to alert them to it. Share articles you liked, make connections to areas you do have expertise in, and offer to help. If you are generous, even in small ways, it will make your network feel more able to interact with you. Build a reputation for being someone who is proactive, thoughtful, engaged and aware - exactly the sort of employee, in fact, that they are looking for! After all, if they can't see you, they can't bear you in mind when they are looking for new people.
- Networks are like houseplants....
Tending your network for a short while each week is a lot better than a large burst of activity every few months. Let people see that you are present, that you interact with your connections, that you are connecting with new people regularly.