If you’re not networking, you’re missing out on significant career-growing opportunities. It’s that simple. Building professional relationships can make the difference between staying professionally stagnant and climbing the career ladder to success.
As we continue to see activities slowed by the overwhelming disruption of COVID-19, and with social restrictions and regulations introduced to stop the spread, face-to-face networking has understandably taken a major hit this past year.
Many businesses require networking to function; the ability to forge new relationships with coworkers, customers, and potential clients during the pandemic has now become more of a necessity than an option. Although it may seem difficult, networking during COVID-19 is not impossible— however, your approach and attitude may need to change to embrace the evolving social landscape.
While the days of meeting others at industry events and conferences, exchanging business cards and shaking hands are temporarily on hold, there are ways to expand network connections and develop solid professional relationships virtually.
The key to successful networking is to get to know people, have genuine conversations and provide value. The good news is that a lot of these principles still hold true — but for those who are finding the transition to be challenging, here are some tips to help grow your business by networking virtually.
Get comfortable with new technology
It doesn’t matter what platform you use — Zoom, Skype, and WebEx are a few of the most popular— giving yourself enough time to work through any kinks before the meeting is slated to begin is imperative to a successful virtual connection. Run a test of your setup before each virtual networking opportunity to ensure that your audio and video outputs are good and avoid any potential technical issues or annoying glitches by checking that the internet connection is stable.
Preparation is a key component of virtual networking. Planning questions or an agenda beforehand will not only show professionalism but help direct the conversation topics and keep all participants on-track. This preparedness will help keep that connection with your contact, resulting in both parties getting the most value out of the experience. Also, if attending an online networking event, a good idea is to look at the list of confirmed attendees and decide, ahead of time, who you would want to meet.
Attend virtual events
Having quickly adapted to our new socially distanced reality, many conferences and other similar events have already taken a virtual approach to networking. With physical location no longer a barrier, we can even re-think geographic boundaries. Events are now available worldwide, attracting a wider range of participants who are ready to network online. With easy sign-ups and interactive livestreams, connecting with other guests has never been easier.
Build a social media presence.
As people stay at home during COVID-19, they’re increasingly turning to digital media channels to connect. Social media platforms such as LinkedIn can be a goldmine for networking, as an online profile can help connect you with opportunities by showcasing your unique professional story. Instead of thinking about social networking’s value as a number of followers, work to build quality relationships, and watch the connections grow. Start building your network by inviting people you already know to connect, such as family, friends, community members and business contacts, then expand that circle to increase your visibility.
Practice your writing
While remote networking is great on paper, it’s not without its challenges, and not everyone you connect with will be readily accessible for video chats. These potential contacts will likely prefer to message back and forth to fit their schedule. Honing your writing skills to ensure a professional tone will reflect your attention and appreciation when communicating — especially during early interactions — as that crucial first impression is so important. Also be sure to send a thank-you message to anyone you do connect with, as this simple but memorable gesture often goes a long way.
Follow up and follow through – but don’t be a pest
If you told someone you would get in touch with them or promised to introduce someone to a person you know, take the time to do it. It often only takes minutes to shoot off an email and keep the relationship alive. If you do not hear back from a person with whom you want to network, a follow-up is fine, but remember: if you try many times in quick succession, you could quickly be perceived as an annoyance.