Make a good first ‘virtual’ impression

Every young professional has heard the quintessential phrase: it’s not what you know — it’s who you know. Quality credentials are, of course, important in landing your dream job, but unless you can effectively get your name out there, that shiny skill set means next to nothing. 

“I have always viewed a resume as the ‘icing on the cake’ for a candidate,” said LinkedIn career expert Nicole Williams. “I look for good recommendations; skills; presentations/portfolios and, most importantly, presence.”

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Fifteen years ago, the only way to network was through face-to-face interactions: conferences, the office and events. The massive increase in economic competition and technological development has made it even more vital for business professionals to expand and strengthen their presence online. 

“People who haven’t adapted to electronic networking can be seen as not technologically savvy, and this can scare off recruiters,” warned Williams. “If your name isn’t ‘Google-able’ this translates to a potential client or employer that you haven’t been accepting of technology.” 

Young professionals were once taught the importance of a strong handshake. Now it’s the nimble fingers that count. The most important handshake of your career may never materialize without the creation of an online business profile first.

“I honestly believe that business cards and traditional resumes are on the way out,” confided Williams.

The ability to “sell” oneself to potential employees has always been one of the main elements of networking. The easiest and most effective way to establish a “personal online brand” and share information is through business networking sites.

LinkedIn is the largest professional networking site in the world. As of last year, it counted executives from all 2012 Fortune 500 companies as members, and its corporate talent solutions are used by 86 of the Fortune 100 companies. It’s no wonder that college graduates are the fastest growing demographic of LinkedIn members.

“The beauty of modern devices and platforms, such as LinkedIn, is that they constantly evolve to meet professionals’ needs,” said Williams, “allowing them to connect more quickly and easily than ever before.”

Although manners mostly go out the window when it comes to social media sites, certain rules of conduct still apply on professional networking sites.

“When adding a new connection on LinkedIn, make sure to send through a personal note,” advised Williams. “Introduce yourself and let the person know why you would like to connect. This will make them more inclined to accept, and also help to fill your network with deeper contacts.” 

This is essentially your first impression — which means it is the most important. 

“Make sure to address them properly and don’t use any abbreviations,” she cautioned. “And no typos!” 

For recent graduates, there are a few basic elements to consider when creating a good profile. 

“It is important to make sure you thoroughly list out your skill set,” she said. “Clients and employers tend to search for skill sets, and you want to make sure your profile is appearing in front of them as well.”

Cosmetic aspects make a difference as well. Although recruiters would never admit to hiring based on looks, Williams said the profile picture is still one of the most important features of a good profile.

“It’s a lot like when you’re selling a house,” she said. “If there’s no photo, it’s like, ‘There must be something wrong with this property.’ ”

She recommends dressing in businesslike attire, smiling and making sure you’re the only one in the photo — so no husbands, dogs or wedding shots.

Tips such as these are useful regardless of what kind of professional networking site you choose to use. 

“Electronic networking makes it easier to connect with people in your network,” said Williams. “You can build a rapport by sending them an article you’ve read or a message to say Happy New Year. It’s important to keep these connections warm in the event you need them later in the year or years to come.”

Williams believes that one of the biggest advantages of electronic networking, as opposed to traditional forms, is that it overcomes our propensity to forget.

Business cards can get lost or damaged, promising encounters can be forgotten — even emails can get jumbled up and neglected. By maintaining a constant and easily accessible presence, you are more likely to find a desirable employer or employee. 

Like it or not, the business world is not that same as it was even just a few years ago. This new environment is increasingly competitive, international and unpredictable. No one is indispensable. Because of this, it is ever more important to develop a professional community that can be a means of support, alternatives and investment opportunities.