The new wave of digital networking is full of unique opportunities without geographic limitations. It’s a chance to bolster your current professional relationships online while expanding your network far beyond your usual circle of contacts. Mastering the art of networking online in the virtual business world is easier said than done. The rules of networking have changed and professionals need to stay sharp to keep up, regardless of the stage of their career.
To be successful in a strictly virtual networking environment, you must realize that your online personal brand needs to be polished. You need a “digital handshake” that makes a lasting impression, and you need to be skilled at following up without being pushy. You need to be tech-savvy and find creative ways to convey your personality and your soft-skills since you can’t demonstrate them in person anymore.
If you’re applying for jobs, your networking skills are critical, especially in today’s tough labor market. Embrace the fact that application processes are increasingly digitized by making sure your LinkedIn and your professional references are up-to-date. Your professional contacts are strategic partners in your job hunt. Your network will help you immensely, whether you’re trying to find a recruiter or trying to get your foot in the door for an interview.
Working remotely might take a toll on networking in-person, but don’t let it be a reason for your professional relationships to suffer. Try some new online networking platforms that are specific to your industry. Maybe LinkedIn is your go-to social network, but it’s important to mix up which platforms you use—there are plenty of alternatives that are only a Google search away. Whether you’re a web developer, architect, real estate agent, or fashion industry professional, there are websites dedicated to individuals who share your occupation. There are undoubtedly social networks that people within your field are using that you haven’t delved into yet. It’s definitely worth the extra effort to leverage your networking opportunities beyond LinkedIn.
Since networking online is the only way to connect with potential mentors, business partners, and peers, there is a lot of pressure to make the most of it. Above all, it’s vital to approach networking in a proactive and positive way. In the wake of the pandemic, it’s easy to fall into the trap of doing the bare minimum when it comes to keeping up with your network. There might be canceled coffee meet-ups and lunches, but now some amazing networking events are more accessible than before. Don’t be discouraged about no more in-person networking opportunities. Instead, focus on the advantages of networking online. Start by reaching out to personal and professional contacts, from friends and family to school/university alumni. Or, consider signing up for a workshop or bootcamp. This way, you can easily connect with a cohort of people who also prioritize learning a new professional skillset. Plus, the lack of geographic barriers opens up seemingly endless possibilities. There has never been a more important time to stay on top of the latest networking tactics. Check out the graphic below from LiveCareer for a helpful visual representation of some of the best ways to network in 2020.