Social networking strategies to further your IT career

Twitter and LinkedIn are phenomenal resources when it comes to advancing your IT career. But are you using them effectively?

You’re an IT pro, so you’re undoubtedly familiar with the world of social media, from LinkedIn, to Twitter, to Facebook and so on. You’ve also probably heard the old adage that when it comes to your career, it’s all about who you know. That’s evolved in recent years to include who knows you. In our intertwined physical and virtual worlds, it pays stay connected.

If you’re not currently on board with social media and using it to your advantage when it comes to career networking, you will get left behind.

Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe that traditional networking is still critical. But you must supplement your in-person encounters with online connectivity; it’s the best of both worlds.

By connecting with fellow IT professionals via social media, you not only stay connected with your colleagues and peers, but you also get to know each other in ways you may not otherwise have the chance to do.

Specific social networking strategies

Social networking is not just about going online and “connecting” with like-minded IT pros. If you don’t have a strategy and use social networking wisely, it can do your career more harm than good. For example, when it comes to social media and online networking, don’t fall into the trap that so many other professionals do and use it to escape from the realities of your own work or personal life. Don’t laugh; I’ve seen this happen many times.

Furthermore, if you’re like me, you enjoy posting and chatting with others on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn occasionally; just don’t do it all the time. That approach is great for amassing droves of “followers,” but what are you really contributing to those around you?

Focus on being a person of value online. Be someone who always has something valuable to contribute to your network and the Internet as a whole. For example, write about relevant content that you know fellow IT pros will benefit from. This is especially important if you feel that a topic is underserved online. It’s also always helpful to link to recent blog posts or articles that you write or enjoy. And I know I appreciate it when colleagues alert me to a certain IT issue, gotcha or security flaw that I didn’t otherwise know about.

Also, make sure you’re not just interacting with people online. Reach out to people at conferences and networking events. Make it a goal to get three or four business cards at every event you attend; this practice will force you to talk to others.

When you return to the office, reach out to these folks on LinkedIn or elsewhere. If you were at the same event, you obviously have something in common and may find that at some point down the road, you can help these people or vice-versa. This is a simple way to further your IT career.

One final note regarding LinkedIn and Facebook: Don’t simply reach out to people without introducing yourself, who you are and what you’re looking to accomplish by connecting with them. Everyone has seen those LinkedIn connection requests stating: “I'd like to add you to my professional network…” What does that even mean?

People want to know what’s in it for them. If you don’t properly express why it will be beneficial for them as well as their career to connect with you, they’ll likely ignore you. Provide value and return it every chance you get, it will have a tremendous impact on the growth of your network.

Reach out to people you’d like to connect with on whichever social media platforms you deem most important. Build out your network online, as well as in-person and prove to fellow IT pros that you are indeed a person of value. You'll likely never have to worry about IT job security again.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 
Kevin Beaver is an information security consultant, expert witness, author and professional speaker with Atlanta-based Principle Logic, LLC. You can reach Kevin through his website www.principlelogic.com, follow him on Twitter at @kevinbeaver and connect to him on LinkedIn.

This was first published in March 2012

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