Networking Convergence: When Digital Meets Physical

Successful self-marketing requires both social media and physical networking. This blog post addresses the importance of networking convergence for personal branding, job search, and career advancement.

Social media networking is a lot like physical networking. Networking Convergence

Yet, they are different.

Think about it.

Everyone from near graduates to CEOs know and understand the importance and necessity to get out into the physical world to meet people, develop relationships, and sell yourself.

Even if not currently looking for a job, physical networking is the single best way to get to know others who can help you in your job or job search today and in your career tomorrow.

“Who you know is just as important as what you know.”

Some approach physical networking as they do a job. They only do it when it is time to dust off and update the resume and upgrade the professional wardrobe for a job search.

Others approach physical networking as they do a career. Their networking, self-learning, and skills development mind-set is always-on for the continuous benefit and advancement of their career.

Along Comes the Social Web.

Now everyone is using social media for networking.  Likewise, their approaches for social media networking are different.

Some are doing it as needed, for a pending job search.

Some are doing it continuously, for their career.

Others are doing it without any concern for either.

Nonetheless, if using social media for professional or business reasons, a strategic consideration of personal branding is needed.

Your personal brand image is simply your reputation, or how others see you.  Whether planned or not, your digital and physical interactions with others will define and influence your image or reputation.

Your personal brand identity is how you want others to see you, and requires your efforts to manage and control your reputation.  This is where networking comes into play, both physical and social media.

You should dress up yourself, polish your elevator pitch, and attend professional meetings and career related events for your analog or physical networking (IRL).

And, you should also dress up your social media profiles and activity, find your career stakeholders and potential employers online, and connect and engage with them for your digital or social media networking (URL).

Networking is Difficult.

As always, there are a few things standing in the way of success with your networking for personal branding, career, and job search.  These include:

1. Time – Yes, networking of any kind takes time. And, networking takes time away from the other activities of the day. However, if you don’t find the time for networking, your job and career competitors will find the time and they will have the competitive advantage.

The mistake is to limit your networking to one approach or the other (physical or social media).

2. Networking Skills – The benefits of networking only come to those who make a grand effort to learn and practice networking. Read and study the how-to, then jump into the real world and just do it. Whether with social media or physical, networking takes know-how, practice, and skill.

The mistake is to network poorly.

3. Convergence of Use – Physical and social media networking should not be treated as separate strategies for the job search or personal branding. Your self-marketing should present a consistent and confirmed personal brand identity across all your networking.

The mistake is to allow a disconnection between your physical and social media networking.

Networking convergence is a planned process to integrate an individual’s social media and physical networking for the greater benefit of personal branding, job search, and career.”

Networking Convergence is Important.

The networking convergence of digital and physical is important for several reasons:

1. Job Search and Careers Are Grounded in the Physical World – With some exceptions, most jobs are awarded after a physical job search interview. You may look good on paper (resume and cover letter). You may look good on the web (social media profiles and activities). However, you must also look good in person (physical dress and behavior).

Physical networking provides the practice, experience, and connections for confirming and amplifying your personal brand identity to your most important job and career stakeholders.

2. Personal Branding is Multi-Dimensional – Prior to the social web, as an employee or job applicant, your personal brand image and reputation was mostly defined by those who knew you personally and their impressions of your performance and qualifications (such as: supervisors, professors, work references, work colleagues, school classmates).

Today, as an employee or job applicant, your personal brand image and reputation is confirmed and enhanced through your social media profiles and social sharing activities.  It has become increasingly important that this image that you promote across the digital and the physical are consistent and as strategically intended (personal brand identity).

3. The Hidden Job Market – The competition is greatest for those job opportunities that are advertised in print/online or announced in social media. Some have estimated that these advertised job openings make-up only 20-50%% of all job opportunities, leaving the majority of them hidden.

So how do you find the 50-80% of jobs that are hidden?

The answer: through physical networking and referrals.

Networking relationships that are built through physical networking often get advance notice and support for job opportunities prior to a formal announcement for a public job listing.

“Knowing someone who knows someone is an important strategy for the job search.”

For example, a family member heard from a family friend that their company is expanding with needs and plans for new entry-level hiring.  In this referral process, an early meeting and requested resume could be passed on to the hiring decision maker and bypass the traditional resume screening process.

Another example, a dinner conversation from meeting someone at a local professional business club meeting could result in a recommendation to “send me your resume and I will get it in the hands of the right person at my company.”

Additionally, it is becoming increasingly common for social recruiters to search the web for career-focused social media profiles and social activities that identify qualified candidates for higher-level job opportunities that are unadvertised or hidden to the public.

4. Digital and Physical Networking are Complementary – The influence of networking convergence provides benefits in both directions.

For the professional connections that know you physically or through a job application, a quick Google search should complement and confirm your personal brand identity.

Thus, it is important that the name on your resume or job application exactly matches the name on your social media profiles so that you are easy to find (personal SEO), and so that what is found adds even more detail of your qualifications (possibly with your LinkedIn or Google Plus profiles).  It is also important that your social media activity confirms your career focus and shows others that you continue to learn and share your thoughts on this focus.

For the professional connections that know you digitally or through your social media activity, strategic efforts are needed to connect with those that can provide local job and career opportunities.

Thus, it is important for you to join local professional career-focused clubs and organizations in an attempt to meet important job, job search, and career stakeholders (such as: clients, employers, colleagues). It is also important to network with an elevator pitch and a business card with links to your social media profiles and social sharing activities that confirm your personal brand identity.

The Take-Away.

Social media networking is a lot like physical networking, yet different.

Each requires a strategic plan, practiced use, skills, and time.

One without the other is limiting.

Together, an integrated use brings added benefits for a successful job search, a more consistent personal brand identity, life-long learning, and a stronger networking base for career advancement.

What are your creative ideas for converging your social media networking with your physical networking?

Image credit: by Denny McCorkle

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Denny McCorkle @DennyMcCorkle

Professor of Marketing, Monfort College of Business at University of Northern Colorado
As a nationally recognized and award winning Marketing Professor in the Monfort College of Business at the University of Northern Colorado, I help students, professors, and professionals to gain a Digital Self Marketing Advantage through the use of social media marketing for personal branding, job search, skills development, career advancement, and life-long learning.