Business networking sites herald professional future

Business networking sites herald professional future

Hakan Gönenli, country manager for XING in Turkey, says that the positive impact of networking cannot be seen immediately, but only in the medium and long run. To acheive this goal people should be “proactive,” exerting effort to connect to other helpful members and presenting themselves right, he says.

March 29, 2010, Monday/ 16:50:00
With more people getting online now, business networking sites are attracting a great deal of attention for their role in buttressing professional relationships and facilitating new connections. Currently, tens of millions of professionals are active in these increasingly popular networks.

But do these sites really help users expand their networks and enhance their career prospects, or are they all hat and no cattle? According to Hakan Gönenli, country manager for XING in Turkey, a leading European business-focused social networking site with some 8.5 million members from over 200 countries, success entirely depends on the efficient use of these tools.

“If one uses the site efficiently by attaching correct and descriptive ‘tags’ to her/his profile to present her/him in the most exact way possible, the outcome is surely positive,” he said in an interview with Today’s Zaman.

XING provides different opportunities for individuals and firms. While an individual’s benefit from the site mainly centers on career objectives, small and medium-sized establishments (SMEs) can find new business partners to expand their operations or new customers and new suppliers throughout the world. Furthermore, large firms are able to use XING to ensure brand loyalty by establishing an interactive dialogue with their existing customers. To achieve this goal more efficiently, XING recently introduced a new function that enables companies to edit their own profiles.

Building a network is important in all phases of business life for all professionals, regardless of their titles, Gönenli states, mainly due to the ‘trust’ factor. Despite the fact that technology continually advances, he says, relationships still matter to people -- they still favor those they know in person or friends of their friends while doing business

“These sites truly expand people’s networks and contribute to their business-related activities,” Gönenli noted, stressing the importance of building a network in all phases of business life for all professionals, regardless of their titles, mainly due to the “trust” factor. Despite the fact that technology continually advances, he said, relationships still matter to people -- they still favor those they know in person or friends of their friends while doing business. For instance, he said, “More than 50 percent of people acquire their jobs through acquaintances.”

However the scope of “acquaintance” has changed a lot compared to the past, when it meant a relatively narrow network consisting of relatives and friends known from real life, or even fellow townsmen. Now, with changing lifestyles and consumption styles, people have started to spend more time on social networks, where they can connect with people who share common interests, though they wouldn’t have had the chance to meet them in the absence of such tools. And a social network focusing on business, of course, is likely to contribute to one’s career prospects.

Headhunters, for instance, regularly search the site to find suitable candidates to fit vacant positions. Recently, XING established a cooperative agreement with Kariyer.net, a career Web site, which matches job postings published at Kariyer.net with appropriate XING members regardless of whether they are actively searching for a job, providing them a chance to consider other options.

Nevertheless, Gönenli warns that the positive impact of networking cannot be seen immediately, only in the medium and long run. “I see some people thinking that they’ll find a job instantly when they sign up to a business network. There is no such a thing in this world.” In order to benefit from these sites, people should be “proactive,” exerting effort to connect to other helpful members and presenting themselves right, he said, remarking that “this is just a platform to bring people together, not to create miracles.”

Indeed, a pretty high portion of users lack knowledge about how to derive the most benefits from these sites. It is for this reason that XING organizes seminars to teach participants the best way to use the site’s functions and give them tips and tricks on networking, cultivating relationships and managing contacts.

When XING entered the Turkish market in 2008 with the acquisition of Turkey’s largest online business site, Çember.net, the site’s membership hovered around 280,000. Currently, XING boasts more than 750,000 members from Turkey. However, not all of these users are using the site efficiently. “Unfortunately, there is still a long way to go in Turkey in regard to business networking sites,” Gönenli stated. “Not all people know how to use it effectively, nor are all companies aware of the advantages of these sites, though the situation is improving day by day.”

The importance of such sites, according to Gönenli, lies in the fact that we are moving toward a more individual-centered business style, where people are likely to work as free agents rather than depending entirely on their companies. People have to build their own reputation in their fields, he said, by expressing their ideas inventively through using all sorts of social media tools, such as blogs, Twitter or social networking sites, in addition to business-focused networks like XING.

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