Why you need to continue networking virtually and some key considerations in this changed environment

Guest Blog by Joanna Gaudoin

Networking has profoundly changed over the last few months. For some, being able to be at home and network at events may be a big relief but the opposite is also true, for many who enjoyed (at least to some degree) the sociability of events – reconnecting with existing contacts and meeting new ones, the online version is a poor substitute.

Maybe like me you hoped Covid would be sorted after the first lockdown and then you’d pick up your networking again. However, it is clear we will have to live with the virtual situation for a while to come. The danger is we wake up in March and realise it’s been a year since we really did any networking.

People often think networking only matters if you have a Business Development role. This is far from the reality though; there are many benefits that do have a positive impact for the organisation you work for, but also for your own career. I think of a friend of mine who had always moved roles through bosses moving on and her eventually following them. When she sadly got frozen out at her last company, she realised she hadn’t invested in her network and amplified by Covid she had an even greater challenge in finding a new role, as she didn’t have a network to call on. She uttered to me, “I won’t make that mistake again, I am building my network now.” You can’t build a network the minute you need one.

Networking helps you to have a strong base of contacts who you can call upon and they can call upon you, they hopefully talk about you positively to others and this means people know you and see you as an expert in your work area. Who wouldn’t benefit from that?

Whether you are a seasoned networker or not, whether you have networked during Covid or not, virtual events are a slightly different ‘game’ so here are five top considerations to have in mind, after all some virtual networking events will be here to stay:

  • Like in person, picking an event that has some content sharing facilitates conversation rather than one that is totally informal, but one where there is some networking in breakout groups is important too, so you actually get to ‘meet’ people.
  • One-to-one conversations don’t really happen, so you are likely to need to put aside some time for one-to-ones where you think they may be relevant.
  • People are often forming perceptions about you beyond just meeting you, virtually they can be Googling you. Make sure your LinkedIn profile represents you really well. This article is about job hunting but is still relevant in terms of the key elements of your profile to focus on.
  • Take the opportunity to complete your profile on the event platform being used, if you are offered this. That way, people in the virtual event can easily see more about you and are more likely to remember as they can read it as well as hear about you from listening to you.
  • As you would in person, say to people what they can expect next from you (if you do nothing, you have effectively wasted your time), even if it is as relaxed as, “Are you on LinkedIn? I’ll connect with you there, if that’s ok?”

Beyond going to virtual events, my biggest encouragement right now would be to nurture your existing network in other ways – so do put time aside for that. You don’t want to find in a year your network is decimated; it’s hard psychologically to get in touch when it has been a very long time.

To learn more about this topic and give your networking a boost, come to the webinar on 5th February 12.30pm, find out more here