Active Voice: Networking is Alive and Well in the Virtual World.

While our personal habits have changed over the past three months of lockdown, our professional needs have not. Although networking has been difficult/near impossible since the Covid-19 outbreak, it’s the beating heart of a successful business and career, especially if you are self-employed. We’ve learned to live with working in a virtual world, but what about making new contacts and – just as importantly - keeping existing ones? We give you some advice on how to network remotely, especially as it may become a more permanent feature of our working lives.

  1. Nurture existing relationships: start reaching out to people you already know - your close friends, family, and colleagues. It's easier and you'll build your confidence. It’s always useful to start a conversation by keeping it personal and asking how someone is and how they’re adjusting to the current situation.
  2. Make a list of your networking goals. These can include: “introduce yourself to five new people” or “exchange emails with ten attendees”. Making a list will help you focus your efforts and help you know where and how to invest your time to further your personal career success and professional advancement.
  3. Engage in real-time messaging during presentations by using private messaging tools within your event platform to ask new connections what they think of a particular topic or idea at the moment it is presented. In addition to demonstrating your full engagement in the virtual event, you will be building trust with your new contact, showing that you value their opinion as opposed to just contacting them in a marketing capacity.
  4. If you enter a relationship only thinking, “What can I get out of this?” it’s doomed for failure from the start. Make sure your connections know that you look up to them and you aren’t just looking for something in return. Tell them why you’re interested in them. Maybe they’ve provided really valuable content that has changed your life or helped you grow your business. Maybe they said something really funny on Twitter that stuck with you. First and foremost, tell them you like what they’re doing.
  5. Reach out to former bosses and peers. These are great people to catch up with, regardless of current events. Use the time to reconnect, see how they’re doing, learn what challenges they’re facing and ask how you can help. If you’re looking for a job, or considering a job search, these people may be vital resources because they know you professionally and might know of opportunities that are a good fit for you. Plus, it’s never too early to think about references.
  6. Check in with past customers, service providers & vendors. Touching base with those with whom you’ve had a good relationship can re-ignite the connection plus keep you better informed on trends, opportunities, issues and challenges other companies and industries are facing. It’s a good idea to ask what they may need right now. You never know what you might easily be able to help with and that goes a long way and can transform a relationship.
  7. When invited to virtual networking events, make the time to attend. While they may not be your preferred way to meet people, you can still make quality new connections. But don’t just log on and sit silently while you check email and social media – actively participate! Practise a short and strong introduction, ask questions, make comments and write a note in the Q&A. Identify other participants whom you’d like to meet, and just as you would in-person, follow up afterwards with an email or personalized connection request on LinkedIn.

 

If you would like more information on this subject, please contact Voice At The Table’s resident expert on networking, office politics, professional relationships and personal impact.

 

Do you feel out of it? by Joanna Gaudoin*

How are you feeling about your career? Do you feel you are progressing as you want to? Importantly, do you enjoy the environment you work in?

There can be lots of things that prevent the answers to those questions being positive but one core reason is rife in workplaces - office politics.

The simple fact is where you have people with different values, goals and assumptions, office politics will be there, so that will be everywhere then!

Research shows that at its worst negative office politics is one of the biggest causes of stress at work. As well as a negative impact on individuals, it can be highly detrimental to organisational performance. A lack of trust, high levels of conflict and lack of faith in top management lead to poor and inefficient decision making and ultimately lack of action and productivity. If you experience all of these in your organisation then the political climate is likely to be extremely negative. Some of these will be present in most organisations.

Another key indicator that office politics is in a negative state is rumblings of people "just wanting to do the day job and not wanting to get involved in other stuff". This state of mind frequently leads to people not progressing in their careers and in many cases the loss of valuable talent. Research also shows that women typically have less time for negative politics and are more likely to try to avoid it, which can affect career progression

However, politics can be positive, it can be turned around. Once people understand what politics is, why it happens, their current behavioural profile and the effect their own behaviour can have on the overall environment, progress can be made.

As a licensed practitioner with the Academy for Political Intelligence (http://www.tafpi.com/), and an associate of Voice at the Table, I run diagnostic profiling with groups and individuals, so they understand their current behaviour and understand that of others. This is looked at in the context of the organisation, it is not simply a personality test. This is supported by looking at the behaviours that need to be focused on going forwards at an individual, tailored level to influence the overall political environment and the progression of individuals in their careers.

Imagine the impact better decision making, increased action taking and a more trusting office environment could have on the performance of your organisation and the career progression of those in it?

What could it mean to your organisation to have improved morale, increased knowledge sharing and productivity, together with increased retention rates?

As an individual, imagine if you knew the key things to focus on to progress in your career and manage the challenges of how you work with others with less stress?

Testimonial from one of my recent one-day workshops on positive organisational politics:

“We were hoping for an off-site event at which our Business Services team leaders would pick up useful skills and insights to help them deal with the increasing pressures of a demanding ‘high touch’ professional services environment.  Joanna exceeded our expectations.  She won the confidence of the group from the outset and proved an open, insightful and action-oriented facilitator.  Our group came away energised by Joanna’s skills exercises and universally positive about Joanna’s impact on the group.”

Director of Business Services, Leading Global Law Firm

*Joanna is Founder of Inside Out Image - Personal Impact & Influence Consultancy

If you'd like to understand more about how this works at an individual or group level, contact us to find out more. This is not something that is taught in business schools and very rarely on training courses. Typically, progress can be made in this area in a day with a group or 4 short sessions with an individual.