I’ve always advocated networking as a way to meet people who can be beneficial in your career and lots more. In my music business books, I emphasize how even without tons of money people can develop a career if they develop a friendly personality, get to industry events, collect cards with contact info, and follow up. The Internet makes networking a whole different ballgame.
I’ve been very blessed to make some good friends online, especially since I began this blog. I was honored when Todd at We The Change invited me to be interviewed for his new podcast series. In it I talk more about how I got from being an unhappy DoorMat and teacher to reinvent myself into the career I have today. He posted it Wednesday and I’m humbled by his words about me. If you’d like to hear my story, check out Stop Being a Doormat: Lessons from an Expert.
Internet networking is both more personal and more detached.
People answer personal ads, share deep feelings back and forth, fall in love before even speaking on the phone. Then many experience profound disappointment or deep hurt after meeting this person who seemed perfect as a partner. People can be whoever they’d like on line. When there’s no face attached, it’s easier to be more open and say what’s on your mind.
Being open digitally can come back to bite you later!
Some potential employers or clients do searches on line. What might seem like fun to post on Myspace or Facebook can turn off someone who might otherwise want to work with you. The casual communication styles used in emails makes us not think as much before we write. You might share way too much or piss someone off by saying something you wouldn’t say to his or her face, at least not as readily.
Networking on the Internet is most effective when you learn to walk a careful line between making people like you and not getting inappropriately free in what you say.
When you’re dealing with anyone who might be related to your career, that line should get straighter—making people like you while still coming across as professional. There are MANY ways to make contacts on line that will work to your advantage if you use some level of care in the process. After being a DoorMat, it was hard for me to find that balance easily. I jumped at every sign of interest in me or kind word.
But I learned some electronic boundaries along with ways to make some great connections, like I did with Todd at We The Change. Some rules I recommend to avoid common problems and to generate good feelings are:
* Think before you put anything into cyberspace. Once it’s there you can’t make it go away. You may think it’s gone but things get archived for a long time. Even websites that close still have links that can be accessed.
* Be especially careful about emailing friends from work. Delete doesn’t mean gone. Emails can be retrieved from your computer long after they were sent and trashed. Think about what you write and ask yourself if it could hurt if your boss read it. It’s so easy to share gossip or a sexual encounter with a friend. Those should be no-no’s at work.
* Ask yourself if you’d tell someone off in person the way you do in an email. If you wouldn’t, calm down and rewrite it until it is something you would say in person. It’s so easy to shoot your mouth off if the person isn’t there. But it can cause problems down the road.
* Don’t get lost in making friends or answering emails. With only a finite amount of time in our days, it can be easy to lose yourself online. Social networking can get out of control. Forums can be addictive as you chat with others. Prioritize what’s most important. I have a “to be answered later” box and put less important emails there and take a block of time occasionally to answer them all at once.
* Read before you post. If you go onto a forum or on comment on a blog in hopes of promoting something, get a feel for its vibe before posting. When you do, share something valuable instead of jumping into a sales pitch. Once people get to know your name and appreciate your posts, you can include a bit about what you do at appropriate times and invite people to check you out. Someone who’s only there to sell something is easily recognizable and that’s a big turnoff.
That said, do what you can to network for your best interests:
* Join the social communities that will best serve your needs. I’m on MySpace because of the music books I write and on Linkedin for my writing, speaking and consulting. I don’t initiate making friends as I don’t have time. But I can click on accept when people come to me. ? MySpace has brought me together with fans who for whatever reason didn’t find my website. I haven’t found Linkedin to be valuable so far but see it could be valuable if you work it, which I also don’t have time for. I just joined Facebook today and have 2 friends who were waiting for me to join. I’ve heard folks say it can be the best one so I’m giving it a shot. If you’re on it and want to be a friend, come on over to my Facebook page!
* Have good manners. Please and thank you go a long way in all communication. It’s amazing how many folks just jump into what they want and don’t show appreciation when they get the response they need. I get many emails from people who’ve read my books and want me to answer often long questions or give them other info, even though consulting is part of my profession that I get paid for. That sense of entitlement really puts me off. But when someone acknowledges they know I’m busy and asks nicely, I’m more likely to give a real answer. I’d guess that of all the folks I give at least a short answer to their questions, at least 90% of them never say thank you. Remember, what goes around comes back to you!
* Don’t be a snob. Be friendly to everyone. You can selectively choose who you keep in better touch with. But you never know where someone you deem as inconsequential for your career might end up.
* Trust your intuition, not your ego. It’s easy to get caught up in a big talker’s blarney. Or be wooed by high praise. This is where I used to have BIG problems when I was a DoorMat. Someone would say what I wanted to hear and I’d jump in and trust them, rarin’ to be their friend. On the Internet, it’s much easier fo
r someone to be a poser. Get beyond someone emailing you what you want to hear and see if this person is worth cultivating as an online friend. Step back from your ego and see if you see signs that there’s a problem. I’ve met lots of people though my blog and other e-interactions but only keep in real touch with a small few.
Just as Internet sites and resources are endless, so are Internet friends. I don’t have time to write back and forth endlessly to anyone, no matter who it is. But I do keep in touch with the people I’ve come to like and who’ve earned my respect, as I’ve earned theirs. Until someone invents the 48 hour day (what I wouldn’t give for that!), there’s not enough time to get lost in Cyberspace.
I liked the blog, We The Change and when Todd dropped me a note to comment on how he liked mine, I saw he lived in NY like me. We ended up having lunch in person. I’m used to lunching electronically with friends so this was different. That evolved into his interviewing me for his podcast, and becoming supportive. My gut told me he was a great guy, and he is! Now we help each other.
Use common sense and your instincts to choose who you interact with online to avoid getting into cyber-trouble and to make the most of opportunities. Be friendly, supportive and appreciative of any help you get. That’s the best way to meet folks who will be good friends and supporters. Don’t forget to check out my podcast, Stop Being a Doormat: Lessons from an Expert.