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Network online, boost your career
Sunder Ramachandran
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July 20, 2006

Delhi based freelance web site designer Udit Sawhney has a thriving business as a web designer. He met all his existing clients online. What's more? He advertises his services online, for free!

Madan R, a fresh MBA graduate from the ICFAI Business School in Hyderabad, got a campus offer from a leading infotech firm. Before the interview, he did ample research online by connecting with ex/current employees. Needless to say, he impressed the panel with his knowledge of the job and the organisation.

Udit and Madan are part of a growing breed of young professionals who use online networking as a platform to connect with the right people and enhance their careers.

Today, you have several web sites that facilitate the coming together of people with common career interests/agendas. These online networking web sites give you an edge in the competitive world of business. We show you how to exploit this medium well.

Why join an online networking community?

The main idea is to make lots of connections with people who you are not likely to bump into in real life.

Suhail vaziz, a Bangalore based DJ and event organiser, was early to spot the potential of online networking. He created a profile and started participating actively on several networks.

Soon, he started getting requests from fellow members to organise or deejay at their parties. Today, Suhail plays at about four to five parties every week without having to spend a single penny on advertising.

Contacts can be valuable for everything from learning about new jobs or opportunities to getting started in a competitive career. You can locate clients or suppliers and advertise your products and services for free. You can share ideas and learn new things from experts in different fields. The possibilities are immense.

Online networking also has no geographical boundaries. You could, of course, bump into old friends from school/college etc or alumni of your college/ school who may be in an influential position in a company that you want to work for. You can even connect with people across the globe.

Is it for you?

You could be an entrepreneur, professional, freelancer or a student. If you have access to the Internet, either at home or office or a cybercafe, and can log on at least once a day, that's all you need to get started.

The basic membership of an online network is free.

"I started out spending just about 10 minutes every alternate day, but now I spend a whole lot more time and with good reason. I get feedback on case studies and project reports instantly and my boss is always impressed with my new found research capabilities," says Bangalore-based Amit Aich, a 26-year-old IT consultant.

On an average, it makes sense to spend about 15-20 minutes or more everyday responding to messages/connecting with members, although most regulars invest a lot more time than that.

Popular networks

There are many online networks you can choose from. Some of the popular ones are:

How to get started

You just have to create a user ID and password, just like when you signed up for an e-mail account.

However, the real challenge is how you present yourself in your online profile, which is akin to a resume. Your popularity is based on the ability of people to remember three things:

Combine your business along with the benefits of your product or service. "I am an insurance agent, and I help people plan for their future." or "I'm an advertising consultant, and I help companies get the most out of their advertising campaigns."

These explanations are more effective than saying, "I do financial planning," or "I plan advertising campaigns."

Have a catch phrase or statement on your profile. This will act as a hook. Here's one that got my attention on Rediff Connexions: If you want to shoot anybody, call me. I'm a photographer!

Now that you know how to register, the next challenge is to make optimum use of this platform.

Part II: How to network effectively online

Have you networked online? Which are the best networks? Shares your experiences

Sunder works as a trainer with a leading BPO in Delhi.

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