Rules of Engagement for Online Networking

Online networking sites have become increasingly popular with
career-oriented finance and accounting professionals. These resources allow
participants to quickly and easily expand their circle of contacts, share
information and keep abreast of industry trends.

Executives involved in hiring decisions are finding these
online communities to be a valuable tool as well. According to a recent Robert
Half International survey, nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of those interviewed
said professional networking sites, such as LinkedIn and MeetUp, will prove
useful in the search for job candidates in the next few years. And one-in-three
(35 percent) cited social networking sites, such as MySpace and Facebook, as a
recruiting resource they plan to tap.

The popularity of online networking suggests that it is here
to stay but, like any new technology, it offers both advantages and potential
pitfalls to professionals looking to advance their careers. Here are some rules
of engagement to observe when using these services:

Keep it professional. Although
the Internet may seem like a casual environment, dont let your guard down when networking online. Project
the same professional image in the electronic world as you would on a resume. On
sites that include information about your hobbies or interests, its fine to offer certain details about your nonwork
life, such as the fact that youre a film buff
or an avid runner. However, avoid revealing anything that you wouldnt discuss during a job interview. This is especially
true when it comes to posting information on social networking sites.

Some professionals, especially those just beginning their
careers, fail to consider that hiring managers may use these sites for
recruiting purposes or to learn more about prospective hires. For example, if a
potential employer discovers your profile on Facebook, complete with an
unprofessional photo and a reference to your hobbies includingpartying like a rock star, your
employment prospects are likely to dim. Although you should always think twice
about posting anything online that could detract from your professional image,
be sure to use privacy settings if youre
determined to disclose certain types of private information.

Connect with care. Invite only
trusted friends and colleagues to join your networks. Keep in mind, however,
that your ability to control your personal and professional information may
still be limited. For example, using your posted work history, prospective
employers and recruiters can search sites to locate others who worked for one of
your former employers during the same period as you. This capability enables a
third party to potentially ask questions of others who know you but who may not
be among your approved references. If you have something negative in your
employment history, it could come out without the chance for you to present the
information from your perspective.

Be selective. Online networking
can be a time-saving way to develop contacts, assuming you dont spread yourself too thin. Choose services that are
well-suited to your professional area, interests and networking goals. For
example, you might join a general business site such as LinkedIn, in addition to
financial industry discussion forums or professional association chat rooms.

Before joining any online community, do some research to
verify the credibility of a service. Also, make sure that any sites you register
with have adequate privacy and anti-spam policies to protect both your personal
information and that of your contacts.

Try to be as helpful as possible in
responding to queries from your online community, but take care not to reveal
confidential information. Before posting anything, think about whether your
employer or clients would be comfortable with what youve written if they were to read it.

Be conscious of your online persona.
Be especially aware of your tone and how your comments may be perceived
in the online world. What is intended as dry humor could easily be mistaken for
sarcasm, for instance, and a tendency to weigh in on every issue might cause you
to come across as a know-it-all. Review your grammar and spelling, too, before
posting comments. A string of poorly written entries wont reflect well on your professional abilities.

Its also important to be
respectful of others ideas and opinions in
online environments. Even if someone responds in an adversarial way to one of
your comments, resist the urge to answer harshly, which would probably only
serve to portray you in a negative light. Always remember that many others,
including prospective employers, may be viewing your comments and forming
opinions about you based on your cyberspace communications. Moreover, theres a good chance your comments could be archived,
providing a long-lasting record of your posts.

Make the most of the career advancement
potential of online networking by asking colleagues to post recommendations or
comments about your work alongside your profile. Strong testimonials might sway
a hiring manager or recruiter to pursue you as a candidate.

Finally, keep in mind that even though online networking
provides a highly efficient and productive way to cultivate and maintain
business contacts, its not a substitute for
personal interaction with other professionals. Career advancement still depends
on the strength of ones relationships, and
face-to-face meetings can build rapport in a way that electronic communication
cannot. Continue to make time for tried-and-true networking methods such as
get-togethers over coffee or lunch, mingling at professional events and
personalized outreach to key contacts and prospective employers.

Founded in 1948, Robert Half Finance &
Accounting, a division of Robert Half International Inc., is first and largest
specialized financial recruiting service. The company has more than 360 office
worldwide.. Search for jobs now or learn more at

One Reply to “Rules of Engagement for Online Networking”

  1. I joined facebook and reluctantly my teenagers all BE-Friended ME. I was exposed to the social network scene by my new assistant- fresh out of college, highly motivated and some excellent innovative ideas on “How to streamline…” my OLD-Timer methods.
    That is exactly why I hired her — to help me jump onto the Internet Tools 2.0.
    First, she started by eliminating job-boards and paper ads for 80% of our hiring, and registered us at a recruiting marketplace. For the first time in 2 years I was within my budget.
    Then she took-over the initial “application/resume review” process, after she explained to me how she would skim the fat and I would only see XNumber of resumes.
    That is when she showed me LinkedIn and Twitter etc. She even created a profile for me on LinkedIn.
    I am pleased to announce I am totally up to date– well maybe with the exception of the tie I am wearing today.

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