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Business Cards Aren't Dead
While you may have a Twitter handle, blog, and email address, it's important to realize that when you're at a networking function exchanging this information verbally is not an easy task. We do live in a very digital age, and in some professions, it's perfectly acceptable to connect simply by tagging someone in a Tweet or Instagram photo. However, every person you meet at a networking function could be your next business partner, colleague, or referral for a new job. Be prepared with business cards that contain all the information someone would need to follow up with you if they want to connect to discuss professional ventures in more detail -- and in more privacy. This last point is especially crucial if you're attending networking functions to find a new job and you don't want your current employer to know. The last thing you want is for your boss to discover you're meeting with the CEO of another company via Twitter!
Connect with Everyone via LinkedIn
It should go without saying that you should have a LinkedIn profile. If you haven't created one yet, stop reading, sign up for LinkedIn and dedicate an afternoon to diligently completing your profile. When you do attend networking functions, be sure you swap business cards with every person you meet. Then, connect with each of them on LinkedIn. By connecting with other professionals online you open the door for future communication when you may need an introduction to someone they know, whether it's a recruiter at their company or a contact of theirs who works for a different company in which you're interested. So often these days hiring managers offer a job to someone from a personal recommendation rather than via a job listing. Other times, a job may never even be posted but rather is recruited by word of mouth. Having a large database of connections on LinkedIn can ensure you not only hear about these jobs first but that you can connect with the right person at the company. (That said, do not connect with professionals on Facebook. They are two very different social networks with different purposes, and Facebook should be reserved for friends and family. If you have a strictly professional relationship, keep those connections to LinkedIn and Twitter.)
Watch What You Tweet
While you may have a resolution to watch what you eat in 2014, be sure you also watch what you Tweet. As you build your professional network, hundreds of new people will be looking at your Twitter feed to decide if you may be a good candidate to refer to their boss, friends or other professional colleagues for a job. If you tweet, it's incredibly important that you use Twitter to demonstrate your expertise as well as your ability to communicate effectively. If a new professional connection follows you, be sure to follow them back; if they retweet you, you may want to keep an eye on what they're tweeting to return the favor. Building and maintaining strong relationships via Twitter is often easier than via LinkedIn (though LinkedIn is just as important!) and as a result can often be a faster way to get your foot in the door at a company. That said, be careful not to get too personal or say anything inappropriate. Not only could that ruin your chances of getting hired anywhere else, you just might find yourself fired from your current job. (We're looking at you, Justine Sacco.)