When you hear the word “networking,” a few things might come to mind – tradeshows and conventions full of handshakes and small talk – you know the drill. Well, these things are hard to come by nowadays with the COVID pandemic, the new normal and all of our efforts to stay safely apart from each other.
And, with the rest of 2020 looking to stay this way, it can be especially hard to create those meaningful connections with others that are proven to help you in your professional life. You might be wondering: “What are other ways to grow my network, find new connections, and strengthen those I already have? What else can I do to improve my networking skills while in a socially-distanced world?” We say: don’t worry! Many others feel exactly the same way – in particular, job seekers – so here are a few techniques that can help you achieve networking greatness, all from your new-fangled, multi-purpose home office/bedroom/movie theater.
- LinkedIn is your best friend
You’re using this already but go beyond finding new potential connections or groups to join. Commenting on a post on LinkedIn can help relate your name to an article or announcement and show others (e.g. potential employers) that you’re interested in that space. For example, if you’re in software development or looking for a job in that fields, liking articles and posts related to the platforms and tools that you use or sharing news regarding a new innovation in your area of expertise is a great way to be noticed. Start with your existing connections as this can be a way to keep your name relevant with them – essentially broadcasting “Hi! Remember me? I am here and I am relevant!”
- Webinars are convenient and practical
By participating in online events and webinars related to your field, you’re exposing yourself to content and ideas that attract others interested in the same industry. After all, great minds think alike, right? In some instances before a webinar, the organizer will send out a list of who’s signed up. After attending a webinar, you might be inclined to message some of the other attendees. You both have something that ties you together and can spark a conversation. And, don’t forget to use LinkedIn to mention your attendance at these webinars. Again, you’re trying to provide as much content as you can to interact with others in your same profession and/or somebody looking for a candidate like you to hire.
- Keep social media posts consistent and professional
Keeping your professional brand consistent and relevant can be a tedious process, but it does pay off. If a potential connection or employer can see that your likes, shares, and comments are aligned with your professional aspirations, you will be perceived as more authentic, believable and knowledgeable. You’ll also have genuine information and learnings from your community to share when the opportunity arises to meet and discuss opportunities
- Don’t be afraid to reach out for informational interviews
One upside to the new lifestyles we’re living is that many working professionals now have extra time that would otherwise be spent commuting or in meetings or traveling for business. Take advantage of this. Don’t be afraid to reach out to some of your connections to both check in on them as well as to pick their brain about their work. Keep in mind, though, that work/life balance has its own challenges for those working from home so be patient as it may take a lot of outreach before you start getting responses – and that’s ok! But, get comfortable with being uncomfortable and remember that the most killer app on your smartphone is the phone itself; smile and dial!
While nothing beats in-person conversation, building your network from home is not only possible, it is arguably easier to do. All it takes is a little extra effort and overcoming some nervousness to start building something that will help you greatly now and throughout life. Sometimes it can feel a little daunting reaching out to strangers about their experiences, but in reality, the overwhelming majority of professionals are looking for ways to interact with one another and welcome the outreach.
Perhaps we’re all a little cabin fever-ish and are just out of practice when it comes to socializing but that shouldn’t stop you from networking like a pro. The fact is that it’s easier now than it ever has been to connect virtually and sometimes all it takes is a friendly hello and a short message to start a conversation that could change your life.
For a deep dive into your Interpersonal Skills, Professional Branding, Networking, and more, check out our MentorWorks free online career coaching program, the Talent Accelerator Platform (TAP).