Over the last 10-15 years there have been a lot of changes in the way we look for work.  Some of these changes have been subtle, while others have been more dramatic.  But at the core of a search job seekers must still get their work histories and skills in front of decision makers.  And while it might help if you have a few of those decision makers as close personal friends, if not, then you’ve got to start making their acquaintance.
The old adage: “It’s not what you know, but who you know!” has never been truer!  Yes, what you know is still important but establishing and maintaining ties with professionals who are interested in what you know and what you do is truly more important than at any time in the past.
And therein lies the difficulty for many job seekers: How to meet the right people?  Identifying certain decision makers may have gotten somewhat easier, but meeting them and having a positive, memorable personal exchange of ideas, remains allusive for many.
Thankfully in this era of online social networking, it is getting a bit easier to connect and build relationships with decision makers and like-minded professionals. Yes, it remains valid and important for you to investigate industry specific and specialized trade groups and attend their events, read name tags and introduce yourself!  Active participation in such events can get you noticed.  Seeing up close and personal how professionals from particular groups interact can go a long way to understanding their work cultures, but getting to these events is sometimes difficult and costly.
But online social networking has evolved substantially beyond the broad generalist scope of sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, or more recently, Google+.  As useful as these sites are, there are an ever increasing number of specialized social networking sites aimed at professionals in particular industries.  And the number of industry specific sites is growing rapidly. There are social networking sites for a wide variety of professionals and those seeking to become professionals in fields such as law, engineering, architecture, teaching, nursing, and members of many other professions.
By sheer coincidence while putting this piece together, I received a link from the very generous, and astute, Melanie Slaugh, that includes a number of social networking sites for a diverse array of professions. Check out: http://www.myispfinder.org/ispblog/2011/10-career-enhancing-social-networking-sites
And thanks to my old friend, Joanne Green, I can also share one of several sites for legal pros:  https://www.mycourthouse.com
If you’re looking for a social networking site for a specialty that’s not listed here, don’t hesitate to do a search for the areas that interest you the most.
Use these sites as a foray for establishing and building relationships with like-minded professionals. Certainly you will be able to exchange and share information and ideas online. But most importantly, use these tools to create opportunities for meeting face-to-face, if not in the same room, then via Skype or Net Meeting. And maybe you can encourage the managers of these sites to sponsor local or regional events for more one-on-one in person networking.
No matter how you make contact with new members of your network, online or a live social event, the same rules of etiquette and respect apply.  Keep your topics relevant and appropriate, be respectful of other’s time, ask them about their preferences for connecting, and don’t monopolize anyone at a public gathering – get their contact info and set up another time to meet for a more lengthy discussion.  Networking is a skill that gets stronger the more you use it.  So go online, do some research for social networking groups that match your interests, and get plugged in.  Your network will grow, and so will your opportunities for personal and professional growth.
For more about  job search, career development issues and networking ideas,  please search this blog and visit:  hanklondon.com

By Hank

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