The Download – Networking 101

Sure, you have survived your first few weeks of classes. By now, you might have managed to memorize the names of most of your sectionmates. But how will you keep track of the additional 1000 other great contacts that you will potentially encounter during your two year stint at HBS?

This week’s technology column is dedicated to making the most of your coveted HBS network. With a little online help you can ensure that you will always have up-to-date contact information of your colleagues. You will even have the ability to keep tabs on their whereabouts as they progress in their careers. Since it is a two way network, your contacts will also stay informed as you advance in your career.

Let us begin by providing a detailed review of one of the most comprehensive services to help you stay connected-LinkedIn.

LinkedIn
www.linkedin.com
A business oriented social networking site with over 7 million registered users
Think of LinkedIn as the MySpace of the corporate world. After you create a professional profile you are allowed to add links to current and former colleagues. However, the difference is that instead of posting details of your social exploits, you post information typically found on a resume. Instead of friends leaving racy comments on your profile page, colleagues leave testimonials praising your valuable professional skills, like your flair for conflict resolution or superior analytical abilities.

There are three primary reasons to join LinkedIn:

1. Up-to-Date Contact Information
If you and your contacts actively update your online profiles, both parties will have the most relevant data. Since employment information is also shared, you are able to find out where your former classmates and colleagues are now working.

2. Leveraging the Power of the Social Network
LinkedIn provides a great mechanism to get connected with 2nd or 3rd degree contacts in your network. Remember, it is not just who you know, but who your friends know! This feature is extremely valuable when performing company research or trying to make an initial contact at an organization of interest.

3. Job Search
Over the past year, LinkedIn has vastly improved its tools for job searchers. Employers actively post open positions on LinkedIn and many of the members of the LinkedIn community are recruiters looking to fill niche positions.

How to get started:
Log onto LinkedIn and create a profile. You can add schools, work experience and other relevant information to your profile. Next, start adding contacts. LinkedIn has great tools to help you find and connect with former classmates and old colleagues.

The whole process is free and if you find yourself actively using the service, you can upgrade to a paid membership which enables enhanced features advanced search capabilities and more communication options.

Most of our readers probably already know this, but I am compelled to emphasize, when creating an online profile on LinkedIn or any other social networking site, please do not post information you do not want the whole world to know about you. Fortunately, LinkedIn has options to limit who has access to your profile, but play it safe and keep your online profile professional.

Other Professional Networking Sites:
If you find LinkedIn useful, you may also want to check out the following web services, which offer different angles to professional contact management and social networking:

Doostang
www.doostang.com
Combining employment opportunities with social networking
Doostang brings a trusted network component to the traditional job board. The site features high quality job postings from many prestigious firms. I recommend students explore Doostang to find that niche summer internship or hard to find post-MBA position. The only caveat is that joining the network requires an invitation from a current member. Drop me an email and I will send you one.

Spoke
www.spoke.com
Find that right person with any organization
Spoke has compiled a massive online contact database by scouring the web, using public databases, and leveraging its community of members to improve its contact listings. It is a valuable service for finding individuals within a particular organization.

Plaxo
www.plaxo.com
The automatically updating universal address book
Plaxo differs from LinkedIn, in that it is more of a universal address book than a social network. Plaxo provides an online backup of your contacts and synchronizes contacts among multiple computers (i.e. work computer vs. home computer). If your contacts are also using Plaxo, you always have their most up-to-date information.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s column. As always, I look forward to your thoughts and feedback to cater future articles. I can be reached at aarora@mba2008.hbs.edu