4 Professional Networking Sites You Need to Know about

Years ago, professional networking was a rather time-consuming affair that people typically did outside of work. On top of that, it was often difficult to land meetings with top executives in someone’s industry of choice unless that person had the benefit of having a mutual contact. However, thanks to modern technology, the business of networking has changed dramatically.

Gone are the days of awkward conversations or hoping for a chance meeting with a high-level executive. With the advent of professional networking sites, the majority of working professionals now have a way to show off their unique talents and get connected with a community of other individuals with similar career aspirations. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the best professional networking sites and what characteristics distinguish them from one another.

1. LinkedIn

LinkedIn is by far the most popular and widely used professional networking website available, with about 225 million registered users. According to research, using LinkedIn for professional connections is about 200 percent  more effective than using other social networking sites, such as Facebook or Twitter.

Although LinkedIn is a professional networking leader, users must still put forth effort to set themselves apart from that millions of similar users out there in order to reap maximum benefits from the site. To help users do this, LinkedIn offers a variety of tools to help sharpen professional skills and learn about navigating the corporate world. From who should be in your professional network to how to make your LinkedIn profile stand out, there’s likely a resource that covers any topic you can think of.

2. Gust

Gust is an online community that connects aspiring startups and small businesses worldwide with angel investors. In addition to obtaining funding, new companies can take advantage of the site’s valuable advice on everything from the best way to raise funds to how to handle common budgetary concerns when setting up a new enterprise. To date, investors have poured nearly $2 billion into startups through the Gust platform.

Gust also makes the funding process easier by allows startups to browse for investors by location, which is important because most investors prefer to invest in local entities. Nearly 400,000 startup founders have used Gust for the initial funding round for their companies. In addition, Gust features a blog with helpful tips and information for both investors and entrepreneurs.

3. Beyond.com 

Beyond.com is a “career network” that has been around since 1998, just as the Internet was starting to gain popularity. Since its founding, Beyond.com has connected more than 45 million professionals in a variety of industries ranging from healthcare to marketing. The communities on Beyond.com set it apart from the rest, and there are about 500 organized talent groups on the site. Additionally, jobseekers can come to beyond.com to look for open positions in their industry that may not be posted elsewhere. Beyond.com even offers salary information for a certain field or geographical area, professional networking advice, as well as helpful social features.

4. Data.com Connect

A Salesforce product, Data.com Connect is an online professional community that brings together millions of professionals to share industry-specific knowledge, get valuable professional feedback, and learn about industry best practices. Data.com Connect also provides job and sales leads. What makes this site unique is the fact that it provides phone and e-mail contact information for every employee of all the companies in its directory.

Data.com Connect is the only site on this list that is not completely free, although its basic package does allow for free access to employer directories as well as database access for company profiles. For those who would like to enhance their access on Data.com Connect, there is a wide range of membership levels, from about $250 annually to purchase 350 contacts to nearly $1,500 per year for 3,600 contacts.

The Internet has made professional networking infinitely easier than ever before, thereby allowing individuals to efficiently connect with other professionals all over the world. However, it’s important to keep in mind that in-person networking through professional groups is still a great way to make connections, especially locally. Regardless of which type of networking you prefer, connecting with others requires a strong commitment to getting yourself out there and showcasing your industry knowledge and expertise.