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How to Stand Out When Networking Online

Ever heard the expression "It's all about who you know?" Well, there's some truth in it, and that's why it's essential to network.

In fact, studies show that more than 70 percent of jobs are filled via networking. That's why being in regular contact with colleagues and continually meeting new ones can not only expose you to useful information about trends in your industry, it might even be how you hear about opportunities before they are posted. Networking also builds relationships with your professional associates, which can be beneficial over the span of your career.

But these days, people are inundated with requests to connect.  So, here are our tips for ensuring you stand out (in a good way!) when interacting with colleagues and potential employers online.

Craft Your story

You want to make it easy for colleagues and potential connections to figure out what you're all about and why they should connect with you. Do that by making sure your online profiles clearly tell the story of your career history and current goals. "Figure out what the narrative thread of your career is," recommends Katie Fogarty, a career strategist and the founder of the NY-based Reboot Group.

Even if the positions you've held have been diverse, there are probably connections you can make between them to help explain what you've done and how they've shaped you, explains Fogarty. And that makes it easier for professional peers to understand why you might be reaching out to them, and what value you might add to their network.

Explain yourself

We live in a distracted world," says Stacey Staaterman, a New Jersey-based certified career coach who works frequently with clients at global media and advertising outlets. So, don't just hope that professional contacts and hiring managers will arrive at the interpretations you want them to from your online profiles.

Instead, guide them toward the conclusions you want them to reach. Being clear in the presentation of your experience, your professional goals and the value you add will make it easier for potential employers to recall your strengths when sifting through resumes.

Create a seamless online presence

LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and personal web pages all have slightly different focal points, but it's still important to create a sense of continuity across platforms. You might use Instagram to spotlight your visual style and Twitter to be in conversation with colleagues, but you don't want your website to indicate you're looking for one kind of job while your LinkedIn profile says something else.

Another good idea:
Audit your own online imprint. Search for yourself on various platforms to see if overly personal information, inappropriate videos or outdated posts or comments surface. If possible, delete anything that doesn't align with your current career goals or personal brand.

"Professional contacts and employers don't want to be connected to someone who could embarrass or detract from an organization," says Stacey Staaterman, a New Jersey-based certified career coach who works frequently with clients at global media and advertising outlets.

Be fresh

Make sure your profiles are updated and well-developed. Also, use the most current language to describe your skills and titles. In some industries 'Social Media Manager' has evolved into 'Social Media Storyteller.' In others, 'consultants' are often now referred to as 'strategists.' "Modernizing your terminology shows you're in step with the evolution of your industry," says Ann Burr Clevenger, a social media expert who's worked with Consumer Reports and Aetna.

Engage in conversation

It's not enough to simply have a profile that tells potential employers about you. Successful online networking comes from interacting (via retweets and shares) with colleagues and peers to grow your network. Leaving thoughtful comments on relevant posts boosts your visibility.

In fact, according to Staaterman, you should assume that hiring managers are evaluating these interactions and your digital footprint — to get a better picture of who you are and what you'd contribute to an organization.

Create your own content

If there were ever a time to show off a bit, this is it. So, spend some time crafting tweets that demonstrate your expertise or interest in a topic. If you've got a website, write up a blog post that lays out your thoughts on a trending issue in your industry.

Or, head to LinkedIn to compose an article on a subject you're both passionate and knowledgeable about. It will be seen by your connections and attached to your profile so that all potential employers can check it out when considering your application.

Ultimately, all your online networking efforts should be building a case for why you're the best candidate out there for the job you want. "Make it easy for me to decide to hire you," says Victoria Vitarelli, a career coach and marketing executive who's worked with MasterCard and the New York Jets.


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