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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.