Whether you’re employed, self-employed, a leader in your industry, or just starting out, networking and making connections are important in attracting new opportunities.
But in a post-pandemic world where nearly all of our networking is done online, what are the best ways to “meet” new people and build those connections?
Here are a few of my favorite tips for virtual networking:
1. Identify your niche. For most people, establishing a niche topic is a great way to begin creating your own personal brand, which is an important first step in your virtual networking process. When I started out, I focused on the strategic performance management niche, but later I expanded into artificial intelligence and other future trends.
2. Take a long view. Look beyond your current job or gig economy responsibilities, and try to identify areas that will grow in importance in the next few years. One of those areas could be your niche – or it could be something you expand into in the future.
3. Start with small steps. Don’t put pressure on yourself to build a presence on all the online platforms at once – it’s okay to start small by doing just a tiny bit more on the platforms you’re already actively using.
4. Make a great impression with your profiles. Use an up-to-date photo in your profiles and clean up any content that you wouldn’t want potential employers or clients to see.
6. Post content online that establishes your expertise and positions you as an authority in your field. This could be thought-provoking takes on current hot topics, excerpts of previous presentations you’ve given, how-to content, and so on.
7. Join industry groups on social media. Build a reputation by engaging with posts, answering questions, and sharing other people’s content in the group.
8. Attend as many free online events and conferences as you can. There are plenty of online groups, conferences, and workshops happening every day, and they’re a great place to connect.
9. Introduce yourself. When you do attend virtual events, introduce yourself in the chat and include your location and your targeted job title (or what kind of clients you work with if you're a freelancer).
10. Find relevant people to approach. Target people who work at companies you are interested in, reconnect with previous coworkers or find people who are active online. When you're trying to connect, and you need to make a request, get to the point quickly and make your request concise and clear.
11. Follow up, but don’t be a pest. If you don’t hear back, feel free to follow up a few times, but don’t try to guilt someone into responding to you, and don’t follow up so many times that your contact gets annoyed.
12. Try penciling in some time every week for online networking. Building connections doesn’t need to be a full-time job, but it does take some effort, so block off some time on your schedule for these activities. If you do choose to engage on social media, you may want to set a limit for the amount of time you’ll spend on these platforms (they can be a giant time suck).
It is still possible to build a strong network, even if big conferences and in-person events aren’t your thing. Use these tips to fast-track your career by creating an unstoppable virtual network.