Social networking sites allow people to join online communities with other people by schools, places of employment, interests, geographical information, etc.
Professional networking sites are websites that allow people to join online communities in the same manner as social networking sites. The difference between the two is that professional sites are used primarily to understand more about your current or desired field and to stay connected with other professionals in a more specialized community.
How do I get started?
Identify your short-term and long-term professional goals
A healthy online network is one where you can contribute to the professional development of others as well as your own. Knowing your goals helps you to target the right networks and connections.
Research key information about employers or industries
Before seeking out or engaging your contacts within a professional online community you want to be knowledgeable about your field as well as specific employers of interest. Professionals will recognize you as someone who is serious about his or her career knowing current issues, professional organizations, and hiring trends.
Talk with professionals in your network to find employers and industries of interest
Once you have connected with professionals through online professional networking sites in your area of interest, begin talking with them about their interests. Use your understanding of the employer or industry to articulate how your skills would be a good match.
Give back to your network
It is considered a poor practice to only gather information without giving information. Remember how you benefitted from others' information and provide helpful information for those who will be looking for it.