Traditional networking may have slowed to a crawl in light of the pandemic, but that doesn’t mean that digital networking isn’t a viable option. These 5 tips will help you form valuable business connections while staying safe.
Many times, getting a job isn’t about what you know; it’s about who you know. That’s why business networking is so important for your career. Building relationships can help open the door to your next opportunity or allow you to help someone else.
Usually, building these relationships is done in person. You might have a networking lunch, a networking event in the evening, or connect at, say, a Chamber of Commerce meeting. Now that we have to social distance and avoid gatherings due to COVID-19, that’s changing.
What will networking look like as we move forward? Here are some things to expect — and some tips to make it work for you.
Use Technology to Your Benefit
Networking has mostly moved online, and that can make it difficult to truly connect. Your emotions are harder to show, and it can be more challenging to pick up on others’ feelings and intentions when you lack body language and other non-verbal cues.
However, that doesn’t mean that networking online isn’t helpful. The more comfortable you are with technology, the better — for a variety of reasons.
Use social media platforms like LinkedIn to chat with colleagues and discuss their online posts. You can also share information of your own and engage with others in the comments. One of the most significant benefits of networking online is that you can connect with those who aren’t in your area or don’t attend conferences.
Be proactive in your outreach and attract like-minded people to you. When they have a desire to build a relationship with you, it gives you more leverage and helps you avoid seeming like you’re trying to get a foot in the door.
Reach Out to Folks Who Would Have Been at Conferences
As 2020 progressed, most conferences and meet-ups were cancelled. But that doesn’t mean all is lost. Networking is just as important as it ever was. There’s a way to use those cancelled conferences to your advantage.
Get your hands on the attendee list and find people who you’re interested in meeting or talking to. They can be speakers or fellow attendees. Do a little research to find out something you have in common, whether it’s a hobby, a previous school, or past work experience. This gives you a natural bridge to conversation. Send each person a private email or message on social media mentioning your commonality and the fact that you had both planned to attend the conference.
From there, you can ask for a virtual chat using video software like Zoom. This gives you a chance to be ‘face-to-face’ without being together in person. You can have a conversation just like you would have in person — plus with fewer distractions and time pressures!
Take Time to Connect With Leaders at Your Company
Under normal circumstances, getting an audience with a senior leader at your company might have been impossible. They are often travelling or in daily meetings, unable to chat or join a team strategy session.
Today, however, that’s not necessarily the case. With travel significantly reduced, senior leaders are more available. Even more importantly, they don’t have to physically be in your location to join a Zoom call or other video meeting.
If your team is working on some strategy and you think an executive would be interested or would have something valuable to share, invite them to do so! They can present for a few minutes, or simply listen to the conversation.
Afterwards, drop them a note of thanks and make it a point to continue to grow that relationship.
Talk to People You Already Know for New Introductions
A lot of business professionals make the mistake of thinking that networking is about connecting with strangers. While it’s true that you can meet someone new who has excellent connections, your most substantial network consists of people you already know.
Which friends and colleagues do you have who you haven’t spent time with for a while? What about family members? Schedule a virtual meeting or private message chat to catch up. Find out how they’re doing, what has changed for them, and ask how you can help. Perhaps you can introduce them to someone!
Once you’ve offered to help, you can share your circumstances and ask if they know anyone you should meet. Make sure your request is specific. Don’t say “Do you know anyone who can help my career?” but rather, “Do you know anyone who could help me understand marketing better?”
You’ll be surprised who you meet by strengthening your existing connections with friends, family, and colleagues.
Networking Goes Both Ways
One of the biggest secrets to being successful with networking, whether COVID-19 is impacting the landscape or not, is to remember to give back. Whenever you’re chatting with someone, ask yourself who you know that they could meet.
When you help someone move forward with their goals, you build one of the strongest connections available. They will not forget the person who helped them — and will be quite likely to help you in the future as well.
Don’t let social distancing get you down. With today’s technology, now could be a better time than ever to build your network.