Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Tip of the Day: Maintain your business hygiene

Stats show most of us spend 60 minutes or less a month maintaining or building our professional network. In hygiene terms, that's pretty nasty, no?

The folks at exec recruiting firm The Pachera Group think so, and are offering up some tips on how to clean up our acts.

Firm partner Mike Vanneman sympathizes, acknowledging it’s not that people don’t want to have movers and shakers in their network; it’s just that life gets in the way and pushes this important task to the back burner.

Then, he says, when individuals lose or leave a their job, “all of a sudden, they look at contacts in their Blackberry, Outlook or day planner and realize the only people in their network are family members, former classmates or people with whom they would have preferred to lose touch.”

The good news is that in this case, technology is a blessing, not a curse. The popularity of sites such as LinkedIn, Plaxo Pulse and Facebook makes building a network easy and fun.

LinkedIn is the most widely adopted business networking site and odds are many of the people you have lost touch with are already active on the site. Create a high-impact profile by:
* Uploading a picture that conveys approachability and friendliness.
* Asking former bosses, peers and subordinates for recommendations.
* Joining networking groups, such as your alma mater, former employer alumni or professional associations.

Facebook is attracting more and more baby boomers who use it for connecting with colleagues, friends and family. Some suggested steps to get started:
* Be somewhat selective. Since Facebook provides a peak into your personal and business life, invite only people you know personally or who have been recommended to you by a trusted friend.
* Be careful of what you post on your page. Whatever you post is there for the world to see! Avoid pictures that put you in compromising situations or where someone could question your character.
* Be consistent. Facebook and all networking sites are like gardens. They require constant care, feeding and nurturing. Don’t let content stay up for too long. Change your profile picture periodically. Post new photos. Contribute to someone else’s Wall.

Plaxo differs from other social networking sites in that their focus is more on the content you share with your contacts than amassing hundreds or thousands of connections. Once you get started with Plaxo, you can:
* Post blog entries, restaurant reviews and links to articles or videos.
* Comment or debate about content others have posted.
* Check out how Plaxo is used by others and inquire about how they have found it to be a valuable tool in their professional or social lives.

Says Vanneman, “LinkedIn, Facebook and Plaxo should become as much a part of your personal workflow as e-mail and your mobile phone. Maintaining and expanding your network on a daily basis is essential especially in today’s times because you never know when you may need to reach out and connect with someone.”

Personally, I agree with Vanneman on all counts. But what do you think? Are you using LinkedIn, Facebook and/or Plaxo? If so, how would you rate the experience in terms of pruning and growing your network? If not, why not? Comment and let me know.

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