Pay it forward
The expectation at many executive networking groups is that you should be as willing to help out others as you are to accept help for yourself. This isn't only for altruistic reasons. As TENG's Web site explains, "By helping our peers solve key problems, we demonstrate our value in tangible terms and position ourselves above the crowd." The people you help will remember you -- particularly your self-confidence and selflessness, it says.
That helps build what Harms calls " social capital." And thanks to social media, you can spread a wider net by benefiting from the indirect reciprocity that online communities enable. "With direct reciprocity, you do someone a favor, and they do you a favor back," he says. "With indirect reciprocity, you do someone in your community a favor in anticipation that someone else within the community will return the favor."
Learn to use social media
Both Siko and Burnell make use of LinkedIn in addition to face-to-face networking. Siko says the site has been very useful in helping him identify people within his network who can introduce him to people at companies he has targeted for employment. Burnell started a LinkedIn group for ENG where people post open positions, and he says the site helps him maintain "a virtual Rolodex." He also actively pursues recruiting firms to join the group.
Harms is proud to say he built a network of 400 people within just a few months. But it wasn't long before he wanted a way to communicate with this network beyond sending people his résumé or following up on interviews or job leads.
That's why he started his blog on using social media for networking; he figured it would be valuable to send blog posts on that topic to his network contacts. "It's content that's useful versus asking a favor," he says of his blog, The Social Executive blog. Plus, the posts tend to get forwarded to others, which builds his network even further. Harms says a few thousand people read his blog each time he posts.
Harms advises all executives in transition to start a blog. Rather than sending the typical "Is the job still available?" e-mail, you can send potential employers posts that talk about your industry or something that's useful to their day-to-day work, he says. He sees blogs eventually supplanting résumés as a means of showcasing your capabilities to employers.
Go beyond online networks
While there's a lot to be said for social media, don't let it completely replace face-to-face meetings, Burnell warns. Sites like LinkedIn don't display all the contacts people have, since some executives shy away from connecting on a social network for fear of looking disloyal to their current employers.
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