Virtual networking isn’t just about zooming yourself silly. Networking is a powerful tool for generating lasting connections and opening career doors. It freshens up your perspective whilst raising your professional profile. For most, it helps find a job you love.
Believe it or not, you’re in a better position to network now than pre-pandemic, when in-person events were the main form of networking. To network successfully during these more virtual times, you simply need access to the right technologies and people, as well as a networking skills toolbox. This blog outlines four tips that you can use to lift your virtual networking game.
1) Set Realistic Goals And Plan
Before heading out into the wide world of virtual networking, it’s important to set some goals for what you are looking to achieve. If you’re planning to moonwalk into a job as Elon Musk’s right-hand man, you need a very good plan of how to get there. For example, is your goal to:
– Share ideas and knowledge?
– Build your confidence?
– Raise your profile and build industry connections?
– Advance your career and get access to job opportunities?
If it’s the latter, then you should also consider:
– What are your 1 year, 2 year and 5-year career goals?
– What types of companies and industries are you interested in working in?
– What tools, skills and knowledge do you want to build?
– Who do you want to meet from your ideal companies? Peers, leadership or both?
2) Build A Worthwhile Digital Presence
Social media allows you to be digitally visible. When profiles are unfinished or convey the wrong message, they can be damaging to your networking efforts. Take the time to craft a LinkedIn profile that highlights your skills and experience, as well as your personality. When building your LinkedIn profile, you should:
– Upload a recent, well-lit picture of your head and shoulders
– Update your work and educational experience, ensuring that it matches your CV
– Ask colleagues for recommendations and endorsements
– Include industry specific keywords throughout your bio and experience sections. LinkedIn works as a search engine, so this helps relevant people find you via the search function
– Engage with other people’s posts, by liking, commenting or sharing
– Join relevant industry or career groups
– Share articles, videos and other content along with your opinion and takeaways
– Post questions you genuinely have and stoke debate
Now that you have clear goals and a solid foundation. It’s time to start connecting with the right people
3) Start Connecting
Now for the “awkward” part – reaching out to people.
First, Reach Out To People You Know
Start with the people you know. You might be looking for a role with a company that your contacts already have history with. Re-engage connections and open new conversations with people from your past. Friends and even acquaintances are almost always happy to help.
Invite them to a call and check in. Ask your contacts for introductions to the people you want to meet because it leverages the impression your contact created.
Cold LinkedIn Reach Outs
Even if you don’t know the person, reaching out on LinkedIn is perfectly acceptable. It might feel uncomfortable but when you do so with class and direction it can work well.
Introduce yourself and your reason for contacting them. Make it personal and avoid sounding self-serving. Ask about something they have done that impressed you or that inspires your career choices. Feel free to talk about something they are proud of because people like to talk about themselves.
Your aim should be to establish a relationship, so don’t immediately ask for a call because that changes the dynamic. Have an organic conversation and glean what you can until they are comfortable with you. Then, and only then, consider asking for a call.
4) Virtual Event Networking Sessions
Webinars, zoom meetings and info sessions are great exposure, but how do you network at them?
It starts before you attend. Announce your attendance on social media and use the hashtags the event suggests. Be visible on their page without spamming by asking and answering insightful questions. If there is an attendee list, find priority people you would like to meet so you can maximise your time on the call.
Whilst on the call, you can either opt to be a passenger, or noticeable. We recommend being seen and being heard. Try to always engage in real-time discussions, offering interesting viewpoints or helpful resources. If someone else asks a question you can answer, do so both publicly and privately. A direct message to that person creates an impression. Spark conversations where possible and exchange contacts if it is appropriate.
During the event, make sure to write down the names of the people you have spoken to. Follow up with them in the days after with a thoughtful email or LinkedIn message. Create personal connections and thank them for conversations. Where it helps your goals, invite them to other events or virtual business lunches.
Let Us Know If We Can Help
While networking has never been easy for everyone, virtual networking has opened up a whole world of additional opportunity. If you’re looking to connect with professionals in the IT and digital space, please get in touch with the consulting team at Finite IT.