By Steve Prentice.

Steve Prentice is a speaker, author and president of the consulting firm Bristall Morgan Inc. He is a regular HAPPEN presenter. He can be reached via www.bristall.com or through LinkedIn. 

This article is abridged from his presentation at 12th April, Burlington Happen meet. 

Web 2.0 is a term that refers to the second generation of Internet usage. It is not an actual piece of software or hardware, but a collective description of the types of actions and attitudes that the Internet has now embraced.

To put this in perspective, Web 1.0, the first generation of Internet usage, existed from around 1995 to 2008 – a period in which everything was about information. People posted information about themselves or their company up on a web page. They sent messages directly to one another via e-mail. They expected people to read, learn and then act.

However as internet speed got faster, bandwidths got wider and access to the net became easier (think wireless, cellphones and the BlackBerry), the transition happened. The theme of Web 2.0 became interaction. People today expect to communicate directly, to place their comments, to talk, be heard and to be empowered.

So what does this mean job-search in the Web 2.0 age? A few things actually.

  • First it changes the way you’ll market yourself
  • Second it changes the way companies look for people
  • Third it adds extra requirements to your professional abilities – having a position on Web 2.0 will be critical to your potential success as a leader and contributor at your future company.

From the wide selection of networking sites, by far the most effective at this point in time (April 2010) is still LinkedIn. It is a networking site in the truest sense of the word. It is a place where people network, and seek to expand their connections. Based on the principle that every person knows about 500 other people, LinkedIn seeks to make those connections so that further business and opportunities can arise.

Consider the following example.

  • I, Steve Prentice, am a writer and a speaker. I have a profile on LinkedIn.
  • Mary Jones knows me professionally. She also has a profile on LinkedIn.
  • Mary knows me and my work well enough that if someone were to call her up and say, “Mary, do you know someone who could give a good speech at our annual retreat next October?” she would be able to recommend me without reservation.
  • I invite Mary to “connect” with me on LinkedIn. She accepts. Mary shows up on my profile as a Connection, and I show up on hers also as a Connection.
  • Mary also connects with John, a lawyer. Again, she knows of his work, and would be happy to recommend him to someone looking for legal services. John is “Connected” with Mary.
  • Through this connection system I now know John through one degree of separation. Although I do not know him personally, I “know of” him through Mary. And if Mary thinks highly of him, then I’m confident to approach him with some business. After all, that’s what networking has always been about.
  • Any people that John connects with are now connected to me by two degrees of separation. I have trust in their abilities due to the calibre of John and Mary. If I wished to make contact with any of John’s connections, I could only do so with John’s permission. This reduces unwanted contacts or potential abuse of a multi-thousand member database.

Just as in the real world, where a personal network means being connected to thousands of other people, so it is online. Even in this simple example above, my professional connection to Mary has allowed me access to five professionals: Mary, John, Sam, Pat and Fred. When you use the Linked in Database correctly, these numbers grow substantially.

Here are some ways in which these connections can help you:

  • Tell your LinkedIn community you’re looking for new work. There is no stigma the way there might have been in past. People have recognized the highly mobile community in which we live. They’re happy to help.
  • Keep your “status updates” up-to-date. This allows your network to know about your day-to-day (or week-to-week) status, which will keep you in the forefront of their minds.
  • Search for contacts who can help you: The best jobs are not found by waiting for the “Help Wanted” sign to appear. They are referred by people in the know. By seeking out people who are in the same business as you, people who you think might be able to give you some advice, a lead or a recommendation, you stand a much better chance of getting in front of the decision-makers, than if you’re just another résumé on the pile. If, in using my simple scenario above, I read Fred’s profile and recognize that he would be a good person to talk to, I could ask Mary, who could ask John. If all three, Mary, John and Fred are open to the introduction, then I have someone valuable and new to talk to. Eventually, if Fred and I hit it off, we may connect directly, in which case he would be a 1st Level connection with me.
  • Create a strong profile for people to scan. There are people out there who are looking to hire, and people who are looking to network. If your profile is complete and up-to-date, you stand a better chance of getting that notification from someone who would like to talk to you.
  • Ask for recommendations from your LinkedIn colleagues. Nothing beats good word-of-mouth. Ask for recommendations from people who know you and have worked with you, including your past employers.
  • Find out who is hiring. You can perform an advanced search for people in your area with the same skillset as you. For example, if you’re an accountant in Toronto, search profiles in your postal code region using keywords with your skills, to find out which companies employ people like you.
  • Research a company’s current employees – even those you have no connection with. They may reveal the companies these people used to work at – which may be additional leads for your job-search. They may also even share with you how they got hired – who they talked to, or what specific doors they had to knock on.
  • Recognize that people who hire use LinkedIn to research prospective hires. No matter which route you use to locate a job, the odds are good that you will be researched by your prospective employer. They might find out some information about you on Google, and they’re also likely to want to read your LinkedIn profile as well as your FaceBook profile and your Twitter feeds. This is your opportunity to offer an expanded description of your achievements and history in a way that a résumé could never do.
  • Remember that some people prefer to hire LinkedIn members first. Because LinkedIn has its own Jobs & Hiring section, there are often many job listings that state clearly that preference will be given to LinkedIn members.
  • Download and use the JobsInsider. Possibly one of the coolest features to come along in a long while is the JobsInsider. This is a downloadable module that watches as you perform your online job search on jobsites other than LinkedIn (such as Monster.com) and tells you who you are connected to and who might be available to help you out.

Web 2.0 Networking in General

The best approach is to keep in tune with all of these techniques: check your LinkedIn site, your FaceBook site, your Twitter feeds and your e-mail inbox regularly.

Everyone you meet should be kept alive through your network. Even people who seem to have no bearing on your immediate situation should be “kept alive” by way of a periodic touch-base. Make a point to stay in contact with all the people in your networking circle at least once a year. Drop them a line, ask how they are doing. Even after you land your next position, your personal network will prove to be your most valuable business asset.

Wherever your professional paths lead you, take some time to tend to your network. It is a living, breathing thing that will respond well to continued care. The time it takes to do this is not wasted; it is, in fact, being invested. Your active network of contacts is your safety net – an investment in your livelihood.

  • Get your database in order. Whether you use contact management software, a spreadsheet, or simply a pile of business cards held together with a rubber band, get your contacts in order, alphabetically, and prune out those who are either redundant or of no use to you.
  • Identify each person as a “once-a-year” or once every two months type of contact..
  • Divide your database into twelve groups, one for each month of the year. If you are using the card-and-rubber-band system, invest in twelve sticky notes and write the month names on them before inserting them at regular intervals through the pile. If you are using software, attach a month to an empty field or cell. Then, once a month, drop a line to the people earmarked for that month. When you send your e-mail, there’s no need to write volumes, or to enter into a “sales pitch.” Just a quick line or two, asking how the other person is doing, is all that is needed.
  • Make sure your e-mail signature is clear and straightforward. Include your name, e-mail address and phone number.
  • Consider using a personal e-mail account such as your home Internet service, or a free website-based service such as Hotmail or gMail. This allows you to keep your contact list accessible even if you change jobs or Internet providers.
  • Make sure to “listen” even through e-mail. If a contact writes back and tells you some news, note that news down on the contact’s business card, so as to keep up to date as time goes by.
  • Return all calls and e-mails within two or three hours. This will amaze people.

Networking is a non-scientific technique. You can’t tell where your next opportunity will come from or when. But it works and works well. It should be considered as a corporate survival skill to be practiced not simply during a period of transition, but always. 

Excerpted from Up To Speed: Resources for Professionals In Transition, an e-book written and published by Steve Prentice, available for sale at www.bristall.com