Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Creating an online social network around your work

So you're getting a killer skillset and you've built a homepage, what next?

I'm sure you've heard the old cliche 'it's not what you know but who you know'. Well, it's not a cliche for nothing.

Who you "know" and who you are is especially important in new media where companies can be as small as 4-8 people - the right fit means everything in a small company.

So how do you get to know people in the industry while you're still a student? How do you get advice from these people if you don't have access? How do you stand out from the crowd? How do you present yourself and your goals to the world?

Thanks to the internet, you can start right now.

Getting connected

I found this out once I started really taking part in online life by joining a private virtual community. In fact, many of my first professional opportunities were the product of social networking that began while I was still in school. Thanks to my active online life I quickly found mentors, friends and connections who have been invaluable to my direction as an interactive writer - and as a person.

Online social networking software (SNS) like Orkut, Ryze, Linkedin and others you can start building an identity for yourself around your interests, skills and professional goals. For those of you who are creating more creative projects there is CBC's ZeD, which offers budding writers, filmmakers, animators and artists to share their work with other creatives around the world (and if you do something really amazing you might even find yourself featured on their show).

French blogtrepreneur Loic Le Meur explains the power of online reputation and how to secure a viable network:

"Build your virtual identity, fast.

I know most of you know all the below already, I just tried to put together what was online reputation for the beginner in blogging.

The two main trends of the Internet 2.0 are blogging and social software. Beware, in this Internet everybody knows more and more about you. There is less and less privacy.
Here some the components of your virtual identity as I see it: -Google your name. If you have never written anything on the Internet, other people may have done it (press, bloggers, etc).

Check what is there, more and more people will check that before or after meeting you, to get a sense of your reputation -Become a member of
Linked In. Thousands of people in the world every day are joining it. You do not care ? Well, I guess you should because they start talking to their network more than you do and have quicker connections to the people that matter to what they are doing. They will go faster than you with these connections. They will also know better than you who they should work with or hire and as important as that, who they should definitely not trust, because there will be always a friend a click away to tell them not to work with somebody they had troubles with."
Loic should know. He's one of the most connected professionals in the online world. Remember his advice and act on it!

Reputation is everything

After a few years of trying on my own to make connections - through work, friends and online participation I found Loic's advice and joined Linkedin. It wasn't instant success but quickly found myself establishing connections I might not ordinarily had found - and I've also had job offers.

Once I started working I wanted to further establish my online reputation by asking my professional clients for public endorsements for my work. Their profiles link to mine and so it's easy for prospective clients or employers to verify that these people are, in fact, the people who gave you the endorsement. Their profiles link to their work history and their own online network. Your prospective client or partner can look up your endorser and check out their information. Once you've established a strong network you'll find that you receive many invitations from other professionals seeking to connect with the people in your network.


So you've found an online network, gotten some good advice and made some connections. What about the real life? What about that first interview?

New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell explains why personality matters and what an interview really tells an employer:

"It is a truism of the new economy that the ultimate success of any enterprise lies with the quality of the people it hires. At many technology companies, employees are asked to all but live at the office, in conditions of intimacy that would have been unthinkable a generation ago. The artifacts of the prototypical Silicon Valley office--the videogames, the espresso bar, the bunk beds, the basketball hoops--are the elements of the rec room, not the workplace. And in the rec room you want to play only with your friends. But how do you find out who your friends are?Today, recruiters canvas the country for résumés. They analyze employment histories and their competitors' staff listings. They call references, and then do what I did with Nolan Myers: sit down with a perfect stranger for an hour and a half and attempt to draw conclusions about that stranger's intelligence and personality. The job interview has become one of the central conventions of the modern economy. But what, exactly, can you know about a stranger after sitting down and talking with him for an hour?"