Master the art of virtual networking with these pro tips…
The year 2020 has thrown many challenges our way. Many people have had to make adjustments to the way they work, with remote work from home becoming the new norm. In-person meetings over coffee and business trips have now been replaced with Zoom calls and virtual conferences. It’s easy to feel disconnected from your colleagues, peers and networking opportunities in general, but take comfort in the fact that we’re all in the same boat.
There are many ways to stay connected, and curiosity and willingness to engage virtually have never been stronger. Whether you are in search of job opportunities, a mentor in your field or someone to help you get your foot in the industry, here are five virtual networking tips from a careers expert.
Optimise Your LinkedIn Profile
LinkedIn is a great tool for reconnecting with former colleagues and peers, creating new connections with industry experts, and finding new job opportunities. Make sure your profile is up to date, succinct and highlights all your strengths. It’s also important to remember that LinkedIn is not Facebook or Instagram – go easy on the memes and political statements. The posts and photos linked to your account should be professional and in-line with the types of roles you are looking to apply for.
Once you’re happy with how your profile is set up, start reaching out to first and second-degree connections to further grow your network. People are now more willing than ever to connect and discuss business opportunities. Seek out people who are working in your industry of interest and send them a personalised message with an introduction explaining why you’d like to connect. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there; people are often very willing to help, you just have to ask.
If you find a post that resonates with you from a colleague, share your own take on the topic to add to the discussion, rather than simply “liking” or reposting. Oftentimes, this will spark a dialogue with the original poster in the comments, and that can lead to more direct discussions on other interesting topics.
Another effective way to elevate your profile and make new connections on LinkedIn is through LinkedIn Groups. It puts communities related to your industry right at your fingertips – a quick search for “digital marketing” resulted in nearly 14,000 groups!
Read more: 5 Easy Steps To Elevate Your Online Presence
Take Advantage Of Virtual Conferences
From a networking perspective, virtual conferences obviously don’t have the same impact as in-person events, but they can still result in great outcomes with a little extra effort.
Spend some time researching both local and international virtual conferences, there are many free opportunities to learn and connect. One of the few benefits of the global health challenge is that almost all conferences and expos have now gone virtual. So, rather than having to carve out time and budget to attend a conference overseas, you can explore the many free events available for you to join from the comfort of your couch.
Prior to the conference, it’s good to be prepared. Learn the backgrounds of the speakers and whoever else might be attending that is of interest to you. As intimidating as asking for a virtual post-conference coffee with someone you just met may seem, it really is a great way to connect on a deeper level.
Tighten up your Zoom skills and make sure you’re familiar with the sound and video settings to ensure your meetings run as smooth as possible. Schedule your calls in advance, it’s never fun to have a surprise video call. If video calls are out of your comfort zone, an old school phone call does the trick just fine and is still much more personal than email.
Be Strategic And Get Traction When Virtual Networking
Before you start networking, think about who you want to meet. An industry insider? An expert in the field you’re interested in? Having a clear idea of who it is you are trying to reach will help you narrow down (and speed up) your search.
When you do connect with someone, remember to ask them if there is someone else they can put you in touch with. This will help you to expand your network much quicker.
Re-engage Your Existing Network
Throughout your life and career, you’ve built a wide web of contacts including alumni, previous employers and colleagues, and friends you’ve met through your hobbies. Now is a great time to reach out to your existing contacts. It is much easier to re-engage with people who you already have an established rapport and level of trust with.
When reaching out to people from your past, personalise your message by mentioning a memory or experience you shared with the person and be specific with your ask. Be honest about your needs and don’t be afraid to ask for help.(Of course, networking is not the only reason to keep in touch with people you meet.) The worst that could happen is that they say they don’t have time to help right now. If this happens, ask them if they can put you in touch with someone who can help.
Pay It Forward
We are all searching for meaningful connections during this time of social distancing, so don’t forget to pay it forward. Volunteer to act as a mentor, organise virtual socials for friends or colleagues, make introductions, share meaningful articles and content – the options are endless!