Networking Virtually

There’s no substitute for the quality of face-to-face interaction, but networking online can boost the quantity of your contact opportunities. Online networks also help you stay connected to those you’ve met with in person.

 

LinkedIn

LinkedIn connects you to people who know you and lets you view their connections, greatly increasing potential networking contacts. Their site has a video section, specifically geared toward students, offering assistance from creating a profile to building a professional brand.

  • Start by establishing your profile and connecting with people that you already know, including your friends, relatives, and former co-workers. Get in the habit of customizing the request message. It’s more professional and your requests will be more likely to be accepted.
  • Next, join and participate in groups, a great way to expand your network. We recommend the BU Alumni Association Official LinkedIn Group as well as additional BU groups or those specific to the career field you’re interested in. Be an active member of the group by posting questions and participating in discussions. Look at the profiles of other members, in particular those who are in the kinds of positions you might want to pursue.
  • Then every time you meet with someone, send them a personalized request to connect.

You can also use LinkedIn to research careers by looking at profiles. Think you want to be a CFO someday? Research CFOs in the industry you want to work in and see what their career paths were like. Where did they start out? Do they have an MBA or another graduate degree? What did they major in during their undergraduate years? What internships did they have? The possibilities with LinkedIn are endless.

Looking for more LinkedIn advice? Check out LinkedIn 101 and Building a LinkedIn Profile.

 

Social Media

Social media can make – or break – your personal brand. More than ever, it’s important to engage with social media mindfully to make sure you are using it to its best advantage to achieve your goals. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Selecting Networks

You want to use the right network for the right goal. Twitter is great for following thought leaders and participating in discussions about current events in your field. Facebook professional pages allow you to curate your self-presentation so potential employers researching you see the skills and accomplishments you wish to highlight. Instagram is a must for those seeking opportunities in creative fields.

Whichever network you utilize, spend some time learning its norms. Instagram, for example, does not support clickable links, so any links offsite you would like to promote would need to be added to your bio. Twitter has short message character limits, so is great for sharing quick takes and back and forth exchanges. Both Facebook and Instagram allow for live video sharing. Using each network in a way that conforms to its technical specifications and unique culture will make you look in touch and professionally aware.

Setting Permissions

Social networks allow you to customize who sees your content. This can be invaluable when establishing your professional bona fides online. Generally speaking, it will serve you well to keep networks or accounts that relate to your academic or work goals public, and keep personal networks private. This can mean having more than one account on a given social network, so be sure that you are sharing thoughts and links thoughtfully!

Word to the Wise:

Be wary of what you post on your social networks. Employers will search the Web for you and will likely see more than you may intend. Think about the online image you’re creating. A good rule of thumb: if you wouldn’t show a post or picture to a professor, then keep it private.

Read an interview with School of Management Professor Kabrina Chang about online privacy, including a prospective employer asking for your login information.

Interacting With Others

It is possible that you may have negative or even harrassing encounters with others on social media. Here is some advice for addressing challenging interactions as they happen:

  • If you are managing a social media brand, it is important to differentiate between abusive or inappropriate content and content that merely says something negative about your business. Treating all negative comments as abusive can have undesired side-effects, like creating a conversation around censorship. If at all possible, have a clear and consistent policy for addressing complaints online, and if you unsure what to do, discuss with a supervisor.
  • Comments or messages that are abusive, harassing, or indicate that the commenter has access to contact information like a home address or phone number (doxxing) should be reported to both the social network and local law enforcement as appropriate.
  • Resist the temptation to engage in back-and-forth with commenters who are deliberately sharing inflammatory content. Your reputation will be better served remaining above the fray. However, you can and should counter misinformation with facts.
  • If you are contacted professionally via a social media DM, it is a good idea to move that interaction to email if at all possible to establish a digital trail.
  • If sharing original creative work via social media, it is recommended to add a watermark to reduce the risk of your work being plagiarized.

Social Media at Work

Many employers have social media policies for how employees can use these platforms while at work. Some organizations have been known to monitor computer use remotely. Before starting an internship or job, make sure you know the rules. The same may also apply on a company-issued cell phone.

 

Other Virtual Networking Options

Blog: Establishing a blog is a great way to participate in a professional community and share your thoughts on career-related topics. Look to platforms like WordPress or Medium, which will allow you to tag your posts according to topic and explore other bloggers in your field with whom you can build relationships.

Professional Associations: Many professional associations offer discounted memberships for students, as well as online content like webinars for networking. Explore our Resources pages for your desired field to find some options for you to explore!