SEMA Member News - March/April 2010
Connecting Can Aid Your Career
By Gregory Parker
Social media are here to stay, and a great place to start connecting is on the brand-new SEMA.org website, including the YEN page. Make sure you have your profile set up and complete with current information in the MySEMA profile section. You can also connect with other aftermarket professionals on Facebook (search “SEMA Young Executives Network” to join our fan page) or LinkedIn (search “SEMA Young Executives Network”). Both of those tools have huge aftermarket memberships.
Did you know that Facebook has more than 300 million registered users? If it were a country, it would be the fourth-largest in the world. Did you know that 80% of companies are using LinkedIn as their primary tool to find employees? Did you know that Twitter.com grew 1,382% year-over-year in 2009?
It’s evident that social media are here to stay. As young professionals in this ever-evolving mega industry called the automotive aftermarket, we are in a unique position to take advantage of—and even help shape—these developing tools. In fact, it’s more than likely that our respective employers are specifically looking for our expertise in these areas. So how do we use social media to our advantage? Here are several suggestions:
Learn to Connect
It’s called social networking for a reason. And with social media, you no longer are constrained by geography or circumstance. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and connect with others whom you may not know. These skills should already be networking staples for young executives, whether they’re online or off. Connect with potential employers and potential customers; connect with industry peers; and connect with your trade association’s staff. Connect with anyone who will listen. Just remember to keep the conversations professional, and don’t go too far into last Saturday night’s crazy adventures.
A great place to start connecting is on the brand-new SEMA.org website. Make sure you have your profile set-up and complete with current information in the MySEMA profile section. From there, you can meet and connect with thousands of aftermarket professionals. You can also connect with other aftermarket professionals on Facebook (search “SEMA Young Executives Network” to join our fan page) or LinkedIn (search “SEMA Young Executives Network”). Believe it or not, both of those tools have huge aftermarket memberships.
“The new SEMA website is not only a great place for industry information, but it also serves to help keep me connected with my industry friends,” said Ashley Chalk
of Auto Club Speedway
. “I also utilize Facebook and LinkedIn as ways to continually stay in touch with not only my friends and family but also my clients and industry colleagues.”
Don’t seek and accept “friends” just to read profile information. Make it a point to continually contribute to your networking efforts by reaching out to individuals through private messages or by joining discussion groups on SEMA.org or Facebook. Intelligent conversations and timely contributing set you up to obtain attributes that are attractive to future customers and future employers.
As for your current employer, help your company step into the 21st century by offering to maintain a social media presence. If your company is not already using these tools, it’s because the staff doesn’t know how to effectively do so. This is where you, as a young professional, can step in and show that you have true initiative, are able to work with new technologies and are willing to step outside of your job description for the betterment of the company.
“I was tasked with maintaining all of our social media campaigns outside of my normal job description,” said Eric Edelmann
of Cherry Bomb Performance Exhaust
. “What I found was that I truly enjoyed the interaction with the customers using this new form of communication, just so long as I stayed on top of it and replied to comments and requests in a timely manner. It also became evident early on that these tools were very effective in relaying real data about our company and products straight to our target demographic.”
Business You Vs. Personal You
The longer you utilize social media, the more you realize that there is an inevitable collision course set for your personal and professional lives. Business colleagues mixed with old college roommates, extended family mixed with, well, old college roommates. You get the picture. One of the biggest challenges for many young professionals regarding social media is transitioning something that is personal and second nature into something that can be professional and valuable.
The key to winning this battle is in staying true to who you are as an individual and to not overwhelm any one group with too much information. Your business colleagues probably don’t want to hear about your trip to Las Vegas with those same old college roommates, just as your mother isn’t interested in buying whatever it is that you’re selling. However, both parties are interested in hearing about how your positive character traits helped you navigate a particular experience, personal or professional.
“Managing your personal and professional life together online can be a daunting task if you let it be,” said Gigi Ho
with Digital Performance Inc
. “Just remember that people do business with people, so don’t worry about whether or not you are getting too personal. Most business colleagues want to know who you are in real life, not just who you are inside your everyday business. At the same time, too much information can be damaging. Just be smart and continue connecting.”
Remember, opportunities to grow as a young professional in this industry are everywhere, even in places where you least expect them. The only way to keep these tools from aiding you in your quest to become a true executive is to not use them. Start connecting today. You won’t regret it.