In an ever-increasing social world, it didn’t take long for the social bug to bite professionals. I’m talking about the LinkedIn/Spoke/Ecademy/FastPitch/etc. brigade. If you haven’t noticed already, everything is moving to the web. The eponymous site Networking for Professionals is — you guessed it — a networking site for professionals! How creative…
There are dozens of professional networking sites on the web; LinkedIn reigns supreme in the states, but Xing (German-based) and Viadeo (French-based) dominate in Europe. All three of these multi-million dollar dot-coms were started within a year of each other (between 2003-2004) and collectively have over 150 million users, serve over 200 countries and illustrate that Relationships Matter and Your network is more powerful than you think! It’s pretty phenomenal to think of the growth these sites experienced over the last few years, especially when you remember that the global economy, along with jobs, have experienced a rapid decline since their conception.
According to a study released last year, members of the Class of 2010 entered the worst job market for young people since World War II. That’s an unfortunate and proven fact that only underscores the importance of networking — which is exactly why I find professional networking sites so valuable. I don’t know about you, but I definitely believe in the old adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” My job hunt has proven that to me time and time again.
Networking is powerful — it always has been. Long before we typed “www” into a search bar (we don’t even have to do that anymore), long before we “googled” everything, long before the idea of the Macintosh and Windows floated in the minds of Jobs and Gates (those links include the most inspiring pics of those mega-billionaires, do click), people relied on networking for nearly everything: doctors, schools, dating, event planning, jobs, etc. It only makes sense that the most powerful form of engagement moved to what is now the most powerful platform for communication — the Internet.
In this day and age, especially in this tough economy, I think it is safe to say that networking and relationships matter more than we want to admit. When it comes to finding a job, a lot of times it works in our best interest when we have a connection through a past employer/colleague/friend/etc. who is willing to step up and say: “I know Erika and she was a great employee for me and I have confidence she will be for you, too.” In essence, that’s what those public recommendations on LinkedIn are for — they act as a seal of approval, an “I am Barack Obama and I approve this message… I mean, person” kind of thing. Kudos to LinkedIn for providing a feature that effortlessly offers credibility to its users.
While I have some mixed opinions about networking sites in general (life is becoming way too public for me), I won’t underestimate their value. Just recently, LinkedIn went public with shares initially priced at $45 rising to $122.70 in the first day of trading (someone hit the jackpot). I should add that LinkedIn now has a total market value of roughly $7.4 billion — there is clearly an extraordinary value in that!
Whether you see the value in professional networking sites or not, you can’t deny the value of professional networking… you just can’t. Therefore, you can’t really deny the value of professional networking sites. Wow, what a conundrum. Obviously the real value lies in each of us individually, our experiences, our history and our real-life connections; these sites only exist for us to leverage that value and use it to our advantage — and they invite and encourage us to do just that.
I don’t envision professional networking sites dominating in the social networking arena, but I do envision these sites growing and dominating in unforeseen ways. Only time will tell. Until then, remember: your network is your net worth.