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How to Create a Professional Profile for Online Networking

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Given that up to 80 percent of jobs are unpublished, networking is an effective tool for job hunting or increasing your chances for career mobility. In a February 2011 NPR interview, Matt Youngquist, president of Career Horizons, shares statistics about published jobs and recommends incorporating networking into a job search. In addition to career events and conferences, online networking can jumpstart your search and increase your networking possibilities, provided you have a professional-looking profile that appeals to recruiters and hiring managers.

Choose a Venue

Choose an appropriate venue for professional networking. Many Facebook users chronicle their daily activities, but it's probably not the best venue for professional networking, simply because of its fun-and-games, social-oriented reputation. LinkedIn is popular with job seekers and professionals looking to make connections that will further their careers. But LinkedIn isn't the only game in town. An October 2013 article, "8 Alternatives to LinkedIn for All Your Professional Networking Needs," published in "Search Engine Journal," suggests a number of other networking sites, such as Opprtunity.com and AngelList.com, are worthy of consideration, especially if you're looking for a venues with targeted audiences.

Determine the Purpose

Decide whether your focus is on actively searching for employment or looking to improve your success in your current position. If you're a job seeker, your profile should contain relevant, detailed descriptions of your qualifications and what you can offer a prospective employer. In other words, your profile might closely resemble your resume and cover letter, although in a format that conforms to the venue you choose. On the other hand, if you're looking to make connections that might build on your current success, your focus should be on your present job and give readers a reason to connect with you. For example, if you're in a sales position, you might include information about your current territory, product knowledge, sales achievements and expertise in consultative selling.

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Omit Personal Information

Depending on the networking site you select, you may have to provide some personal information, such as your email address and location. But your profile shouldn't mention what church you attend, political party affiliations, social groups or personal causes and charities in which you're involved. That doesn't mean you can't include some mention of your life outside work, but choose your activities carefully. For example, including leadership roles with charities such as the Red Cross, United Way and your alma mater may foster some professional connections with others who also are involved in similar activities.

Construct Truthful Descriptions

Base your professional networking profile on truthful descriptions about your work. Don't embellish your responsibilities and exhibit some modesty when crafting statements about your achievements. If you've been the top salesperson for 13 years, you needn't list every year you received the award. Say instead, "Recipient, President's Top Salesperson Award, 2001-2013." If your professional profile is the kind that allows recommendations or endorsements from colleagues, state your duties and responsibilities in a manner that others understand so they can confidently vouch for your achievement.

No Duck-Face Photos

Post a professional photograph, or at least a photo that doesn't look like it was snapped in the photo booth at the amusement park. Facebook-appropriate photos with friends and pictures taken in the bathroom mirror should never be a part of your professional profile, because, as the saying goes, "A picture is worth a thousand words." You want your profile to reflect your professional accomplishments -- not how you let your hair down on the weekends.

About the Author

Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ruth resides in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.

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