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I have been investing a great deal of time exploring the online networking advantages for my business as well as possible benefits I could pass on to my clients. I began with LinkedIn thanks to my good friend sending me an invitation last summer. I developed my profile and then – that was it. In the past few month however, I have worked to expand my network and join several networking groups, and have realized many the benefits it can afford to me and even more importantly my clients. Listed below are five ways for job seekers to use groups and formal networking to drive their job search and expand opportunities.

1. There are many local networks in every community that not only network as businesses but offer areas on their sites where resumes can be reviewed and also where jobs are listed that are available in your area. Check into local associations within your industry as well, their sites. They usually offer similar job and resume boards. Not only is it free but you are opening your network and job search needs to more people than you could have possibly imagined by joining and using several local networks as job boards.

2. When using these networks make sure to become an active participant. Start with a greeting to the group vial email. Provide a quick introduction of who you are and what you offer and what your current needs are such as a sales job within a particular industry.

Develop and save a descriptive signature to be used when signing television  your name. In your signature, include your name, email address, contact phone number and any addresses where your resume can be viewed online. You could also include your LinkedIn address and use a well-crafted profile to provide a detailed description of your past achievement and potential to an interested company.

Use this signature every time you respond on a group’s e-list or forum. It is a convenient way for others in the group to easily contact you without researching you in order to find your contact information. It also reminds members of who you are and what you are looking for.

3. Use the networking sites to your advantage by asking questions, getting involved in conversations or topics which you can contribute to. When contributing, make sure that you follow the rules of the group, using appropriate language, content etc. This should not be a problem since you are trying to attract and impress potential contacts and even employers.

As you begin contributing to the groups, one thing to keep in mind is to not dominate every conversation with your input. Some people feel the need to comment on every topic or conversation. The result is that you come across with watered-down integrity, someone who just wants to add their .02 cents and “hear themselves talk” whether it is needed, helpful or otherwise. Find the effective balance and you’ll be taken serious and get noticed for the right reasons.

4. I have also seen many incidents of job seekers asking for help from the group with her job search. Often by asking for members to keep an ear open for the position she is seeking or by asking for an introduction to a contact or hiring manager of a particular company. The local groups are especially productive for this type of networking.

Groups to consider becoming involved with can include your local county or business groups, women’s clubs, men’s clubs, chamber organizations, or college alumni group. Once you start looking you will be surprised how many groups are available and open to the public.

5. Remember to let the groups know when you have successfully found a job. Thank each group for their support and assistance. Any specific members that have helped you deserve a personalized thank you note. Don’t quit participating in the groups just because you found a job. They still offer great friendships, knowledge, future knowledge, future contacts and many other things that may just surprise you. You don’t need to stay active in all the groups but just the few that really caught your attention and you felt comfortable participating in.

Online networking is growing very quick and if you get too caught up in joining groups and contributing to all of the groups and activities associated with some of the more active groups; you won’t have time to search for a new job. Do take some time to work through the vast groups available to you. Find out which groups you feel will be most helpful and give them a try. It is a great way to meet others in your industry and gain wisdom through your new found connections.



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