Jacqueline Coombe is a freelance writer specialising in business development, marketing, and career development content.
As the old adage says, it’s not ‘what you know’ but ‘who you know’. Building a network raises your profile and gives you a chance to get visible and be noticed. If you’re looking to advance your career, networking is essential.
When you make the time to network you expand your contacts and open doors to new opportunities. These opportunities don’t just help you climb a career ladder, they bring personal growth, fresh knowledge, different perspectives, confidence, advice and support.
Networking is a key part of any fast track to success, but in the midst of a pandemic it’s all about virtual networking. How do you ‘work a room’ when you’re seated behind a computer screen?
Networking during a pandemic
Like a lot of things, networking has primarily moved online. This doesn’t mean that online networking is new, it’s just that today it’s flagged as one of the only (and best) ways to make new connections and build on existing ones.
Virtual networking has been around for a long time. In fact, the earliest form of the Internet was really just a networking tool. From the largest online professional network with hundreds of millions of users to micro-targeted forums for specific fields like healthcare, marketing and travel, career-focused individuals now have infinite digital spaces in which to interact with others. Add to this personalisation and facilitated learning and online networking is now more rewarding and more meaningful than ever.
8 Tips for maximising the virtual networking experience
There are obvious benefits to face-to-face networking, but online networking allows you to make targeted connections quickly and with a wider range of people. During a pandemic, when travel is restricted, virtual networking connects you with like-minded peers from all over the world and all it takes is a click of a button.
To maximise the virtual networking experience it pays to learn more about the tools available to you. The recent boom in virtual engagement means that many platforms are adding new features regularly, requiring you to keep up with change. The good news is that many of these tools and features are user-friendly once you know they exist.
Tip #1. Navigate the new social media landscape
When a marketer discovers a hot new networking channel or fresh networking feature, they can become an expert and get ahead of the pack. Post engaging content before your competitors catch on and you can grow and refine your career-building strategy away from distractions.
Tip #2. Attend virtual conferences
It’s expected that virtual and hybrid events and conferences will long outlast the pandemic. Never before has it been so easy or engaging to hear from experts all over the world. When attending virtual conferences, learn how to modify your screen name for the audience. A descriptive title or other identifier can take the place of your lanyard name tag, helping others to reach out to you.
Tip #3. Spruce up your LinkedIn
Make your LinkedIn page the best that it can be. It’s a tool that can make a strong first impression so whether it’s a proper headshot or an updated snapshot of your talents, give it a revamp regularly. When you do, don’t be shy in reaching out to others you admire in your industry.
Tip #4. Join and create groups
Joining groups with like minded peers is a great way to get your creative juices flowing and make connections. Brainstorm ideas together, create new projects and give each other personalised tips and advice. If you can’t find a group that interests you, create one!
Tip #5. Register for masterclasses
Online masterclasses are a great way to gain new knowledge, engage with experts, get new qualifications and meet and engage with people at the same time. How you interact during these workshops is important, so be sure to provide input during interactive moments.
Tip #6. Ask questions
If you’ve joined an online webinar and you’re hiding behind a chatbox, it doesn’t mean you can’t be seen. Ask questions frequently and allow others to become familiar with your name. Over time there will be others in these webinars that recognise your shared interests and knowledge.
Tip #7. Give thanks
If you’ve attended a workshop, conference or virtual session, send a follow up email to say thanks and praise the event on your social networking channels. This way you can leave a lasting impression for any future opportunities and demonstrate engagement in an industry you’re passionate about.
Tip #8. Allocate time
Online networking (just like face-to-face networking) requires you to put yourself out there and this means scheduling yourself at least 20 minutes a day for networking. Skim your social feeds to see what’s being shared, comment on interesting articles related to your industry, re-share articles that relate to your career, celebrate the achievements and milestones of others, find new companies of interest to follow and track down employees who may be able to link you into a job you’re interested in.
Networking with intention and clarity
Networking can feel daunting at times but you’ll only regret the chances you don’t take. Find opportunities to connect and grab these opportunities by the horn! Are you trying to strengthen your relationships with your colleagues? Do you want more connections in your chosen field? Are there specific people you want/need to meet? Determine your goals and network with intention and clarity.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2022 jacquicoombe