Now more than ever, our lives are interconnected from Salt Lake to Shanghai—from the top of the world to the world down under. When I look at my Facebook friends and Linkedin connections, I have contacts from places I’ve never stepped foot. This new method of interaction has opened the world – literally – to possibilities outside my front door. The question now becomes about leveraging connections to help move you to the next phase of your career.

I often think about playing a travel game with my social media connections. With thousands of connections, I wonder how many people would be willing to let me crash on their couch if I happened to be in their city. Do I have a strong enough relationship with the contacts that they’d let me invade their personal space, even for one night, or would they be scared off by the proposition?

The same line of thinking can apply when it comes time to reach out to ask for a recommendation for a job or a position within somebody’s company. So often when we discuss networking, we make the mistake of putting our needs before thinking about the needs of the other person. Don’t burn through your resources; instead take the time to enrich alliance. Traditionally that meant meeting for coffee or socializing at networking events to find out what the other person was working on and what their career or employment aspirations were. Now we can find out if a person is traveling for work, has a work anniversary, promotion, or even if they’re angry with a co-worker without lifting the phone or sending an email. The key to successfully utilizing your digital connections is being actively engaged, not passively stalking.

Don’t get me wrong, social media is a bountiful resource for career prospecting, especially while in business school. We have a significant advantage to change careers, change locations, and advance our careers exponentially faster than the generations before us. Here are a few things to remember as you navigate this emerging process of how to find work.

Do:

  1. Update your status’ to let your connections know the type of position you’re looking to acquire.
  2. Keep your resume on Linkedin current and compelling. Use it as a career builder.
  3. Keep strict boundaries between the sites you choose for friends and those you want for professional connections. Most likely, Facebook is for friends and Linkedin is for professional connections. Maybe Twitter is used for quick updates with professionals in your field and Google+ has your family pictures.
  4. Keep your privacy settings up-to-date on Facebook.
  5. Promote your connections. Did you read a great blog or find an interesting fact? Share it on your sites and help your connections expand their reach.
  6. Show your skills. Social media is an easy platform to demonstrate your knowledge and quickly let your connections see the work you’re doing.
  7. Comment, acknowledge, and respond. You’re not just watching, but you want to be actively involved with conversations.
  8. Stay authentic. Remember this information is in the public realm and represents who you are from interests and hobbies to ethics and work habits.

Don’t:

  1. Be negative. There’s an art to having a meaningful discussion with a person with whom you disagree. Name-calling, sarcasm, and insults alienate people rather than build up the online community.
  2. Lie. Potential employers look at your social assets as they decide to bring you in for an interview. If you claim to have raised the revenue of your company by 140%, be sure you can provide evidence.
  3. Ask for a reference without knowing the person. You might see there’s the perfect position open at a prestigious company. Be sure you know the right connection to get you to the right person. If you don’t have a relationship, you won’t get the desired response.

I’m confident one day I’ll be able to travel from Canada to Australia while bunking with my friends I’ve made through social media, just as I’m confident you will be able to excel at increasing your network and staying in touch with alumni with these simple steps.

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