Creating Connections on Membership Sites: a Professional Network or a Database?

Creating connections on membership sites helps brand and market your career.

As your career progresses, one of the choices you may need to make is how to connect effectively with people online.

Many people take an intuitive approach relative to where they are in their career.

However, waiting until you need a network to build it can leave you stranded when you most need support.  From a career perspective, the time to develop your network is to spend a few minutes on a consistent basis reviewing and editing your professional profile and giving consideration to people you may want to add to your connections.

Viewing how you will use your network over the next five years can help you understand what type of network you want to develop.

Do you want to limit your connections to people who can directly help your career?  Then you want to create a professional network.  You will want to be selective to target the people who can connect you with other people who can help you become more successful.

Your options may include questions like these questions:

Does the person share your values?
Does the person have connections with people you want for your connections?
Will the association of this person’s career with your career help you?
Is the person someone who can put you in contact with valuable and influential people?
Is the person someone who can mentor or advise you?

At the same time, you want the people you are selecting to be people who will see the value in connecting with you. Make each invitation individual and personally written for each connection. Express in the invitation that the person has experiences and successes that are the same as other people in your network.

Do you want to be able to have immediate access to as many people as possible and yet control who can see your contacts? If so, then you are developing a professional database.   You create a profile that promotes the idea that you are willing to accept invitations from anyone.  You want to be an open networker and join groups that promote open networking.

An issue for developing an online database is controlling how much other members of the membership site can know about the people you have in your online list of contacts.  As an open networker, you can still protect your database to a fairly large degree.  Just adjust the privacy settings so that you alone can see who is in your network.  Even with tens of thousands of contacts, you can block people from seeing your contacts.

One of the main differences between a professional network and an online database is a difference in property value. Professional networks have real commercial value to the person who has built the network. Said another way, you can sell databases.

The point is that your view and uses of your network may change with the evolution of your career, yet as a professional you should include developing your online profile as part of your total career management system.

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