By Nicole Duquette

The idea of networking makes me shudder. I dread the thought of attending seminars and conventions because of the expectation that the entire event will be spent schmoozing. I’m just not a schmoozer. Luckily, the internet has made it possible to start networking without ever having to get out of your pajamas.

Joining LinkedIn is a good place to start building a professional online presence and it’s also a great place for marketing yourself in the industry you would like to work in. When building your profile, highlight the skills that make you qualified for the position you want, not the job you already have. When I was fresh out of university, even though I wasn’t yet a professional writer, I set up my LinkedIn profile as such, so that people viewing my profile knew what I was interested in. I also joined writing and publishing industry groups, to familiarize myself with the issues in the industry. Taking it one step further, I reviewed the profiles of people working at jobs I was interested in. By doing this, I was able to get an idea of the type of education and work experience that was necessary to do the jobs I was going after.

Another useful site for marketing yourself in the industry: www.about.me. On this site, you can create what is essentially an internet business card. You are provided with a page to include a picture, a short description of yourself, and links to other sites, like your LinkedIn profile. I now always include the link to my about.me page on all my social networking sites and at the end of my personal emails. From this simple gesture, I have received numerous replies from people who say they look forward to reading my work, or that they know someone else who is a writer. It is a great way to start a conversation and build up a strong networking base.

Online networking can also help get your face-to-face networking off the ground. Try sending out a mass email to your contact list, explaining that you are interested in getting into a certain industry and looking to be introduced to someone who may be able to help. I did this once and met an editor who lived next door to a family friend, and a columnist whose husband knew my dad. These people were happy to talk to me because we were introduced through mutual acquaintances, and it was much less intimidating for me than approaching a complete stranger.

After getting your feet wet with face-to-face networking, try joining a volunteer group or a sports team—you could even bring a friend. It’s a great opportunity to meet people with similar interests and be able to bond over your shared activity before broaching the subject of professional interests.

Networking still isn’t my favourite task, as I’m still mustering the courage to go to a Business After Five meeting, but I’ve found that using online networking to gradually approach in-person networking makes the arduous task somewhat less intimidating.

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