If you're a finance professional and haven't been networking online, you may be missing out on opportunities to land a new job or broaden your client base. What's more, you may be hurting your prospects, as many people use networking sites to vet prospective recruits and financial-services providers before reaching out to them.
In April, recruiter Tiffany Patzer, director of the finance and accounting practice at Angott Search Group, a recruiting firm in Rochester, Mich., conducted a search on LinkedIn for a financial analyst in Arizona with a background in manufacturing. She retrieved links to four professionals' profiles and contacted each about an analyst position she was looking to fill at start-up solar-energy company. Two responded and were subsequently granted job interviews; one was hired.
Robust Online Presence
To increase your odds of being found on networking sites, fill out your profiles in full, advises Patzer. "It's only as good as the information you put into it," she says.
Make sure your resume and networking profiles are cohesive, adds Cynthia Shapiro, a former human-resources executive turned career consultant in Woodland Hills, Calif. "Consistently breeds trust," she explains. "The No. 1 issue in the financial industry is trust right now."
It's also important to describe yourself in broad terms "to maximize every opportunity," says Shapiro. "You want to be someone who is a general finance professional who happens to fit into a wide variety of opportunities," she explains.
Participating in the Conversation
Another way to boost your visibility on networking sites is to participate in finance-related discussions. "It might prompt an email from a recruiter," says Andrew Reina, practice director at staffing firm Ajilon Finance Solutions. He recently reached out to a senior finance professional about a job opportunity after reading this person's posts in a forum on LinkedIn. "I was impressed," says Reina. Soon after, he ended up placing this person into a six-month financial-consulting stint at a midsize pharmaceutical company in New Jersey.
Share Your Knowledge
Similarly, you also can draw positive attention to yourself on networking sites by sharing your knowledge with other users. In early 2007, Sheilah Etheridge, an accounting consultant based in Alaska, answered a question posted on LinkedIn from a business owner she didn't know in Boston. Located nearly 5,000 miles away, Etheridge provided her help free of charge and responded to several subsequent questions posted by the entrepreneur.
Three months later, Etheridge received a call from a stranger looking to hire her as a personal accountant. The caller said she had been referred by a friend in Boston -- the same business owner Etheridge had been helping on LinkedIn.
Networking sites "can literally shrink the world," says Etheridge, who has also landed two long-term clients and six temporary assignments through LinkedIn since she joined the site two years ago.
Of course, just because someone lands on your profile on a networking site doesn't mean you're going to hook their interest in offering you a job interview or business opportunity. To entice viewers, ask members of your network to post recommendations on your profile, says Kenneth M. Nussbaum, an accountant in Richmond, Vt. He has about 20 on his LinkedIn page. "Recommendations provide another way to differentiate yourself," he says. "It's free marketing."
Bear in mind that online networking isn't limited to communicating with members through the sites' messaging systems. Organizations like the Financial Executives Networking Group, online at theFENG.org, also publish e-newsletters exclusively for members to share job leads. "You're not going to see them on Monster or CareerBuilder or your local newspaper," says Matt Dukes of Atlanta. In June 2008 he was laid off from a controller position at a midsize pharmaceutical company. Six months later he read about an opening for an accounting manager/controller position at a small communications firm in theFENG's monthly e-newsletter. He immediately applied and got the job the following week.
Be selective about the number of networking sites you join, advises Lauryn Franzoni, vice president and executive director at ExecuNet, a networking site that caters to executives. Belonging to more than three can take up too much of your time and energy. Focus on sites that cater to professionals in the finance industry and/or your experience level. About 25% of Execunet's members are finance professionals, according to Franzoni. "It's one of our larger groups," she says.
Quality, Not Quantity
Also focus on building helpful relationships rather than reaching out to or accepting requests to connect from just anyone, advises Franzoni. "Networking is not about how many people [you're] connecting to," she explains. "It's a matter of connecting to people who will help [you] get results. It's about the quality of connections."
When extending an introductory message, make it personal, says Keith Feinberg, director of permanent-placement services at staffing firm Robert Half International. Job hunters he doesn't know often send him invites to connect on LinkedIn using the site's standard message. "It's a poor way of going about it," he says. "I'll look them up, but unless they have a significant profile, I'm probably not going to respond."
If you're writing to a company hiring manager, show that you've done some homework on the person's firm and offer to be of help, adds Franzoni. "You could say, 'I see that your company is expanding its operations in Brazil. I just completed property negotiations there and would happy to share some contacts who might be helpful,'" she suggests. "If you're another one of those people just sending in a resume, you're making the recipient work too hard."
Overall, don't be shy. "The single biggest mistake people make is not actually communicating," says Franzoni. "Many executives feel that they perhaps shouldn't bother someone." Finance professionals in particular tend to refrain from using networking sites to their fullest, she adds. "They're a little bit more reticent by nature," she says. But the purpose of networking sites is to foster communication, so it's okay -- and even expected of you -- to speak up.
-- Sarah E. Needleman
Email Sarah about this article here. Please make sure to include the title of the article in the email subject line.
-- Tapping Into Your B-School's Alumni Network to Find a Finance Job
-- Using Corporate Alumni Networks to Find a Finance Job
-- Using Industry Associations to Build Your Professional Network
-- Building Your Finance Network Through Family and Friends
-- Top Creative Tactics for Landing a Finance Job
-- Doing Research on Finance Companies Before Your Interview
-- Gathering Finance References and Making them Work for You
-- Building Your Online Presence for Job Search Success