With the pandemic, 2020 has been completely turned upside down. Traditional networking events in packed arenas are indefinitely cancelled, and grabbing coffee with someone is unusually risky. But that doesn’t mean you can’t network. Whether you’re looking for a new job or simply seeking to expand your network, you can do so from the safety of your couch. In these unprecedented times, now is the perfect time to dive into virtual networking and embrace its full potential.
Here are a few ways you can network from home:
Top Virtual Networking Tips For 2020:
- Tap into your alumni network
- Leverage LinkedIn
- Be active on social media
- Join professional organizations
- Go back to the basics
- Extend a helping hand
Tap into your alumni network.
In a world dominated by social media and Google, finding former classmates is now easier than ever. Use LinkedIn to discover where other Fighting Irish are working. Once you’ve established or rekindled the connection, ask if they can provide insights into the company’s culture or if they know of any current openings in your field.
In addition, consider joining your alumni association. Membership benefits can include career development opportunities, access to exclusive job boards, and virtual events. Whether you’re job hunting or just looking to expand your network, these options provide the perfect opportunity to forge new professional connections or revive old ones. Alumni networks have mostly gone virtual which means you can expand the alumni you connect to beyond your geographic region.
According to Forbes, 95% of recruiters are searching LinkedIn to fill roles. Write a headline with your ideal role in mind. Don’t write “unemployed.” Write something that will get you found in searches.
Be sure to fill out all sections of your profile to achieve “All-Star” status. That way, you appear in more searches. Use your LinkedIn as a marketing and networking tool. Write posts that showcase your expertise and be sure to engage with others’ content. Search for and connect with recruiters and others in your industry.
Don’t ignore connection requests or opportunities to network with people who aren’t currently recruiting or hiring. That former direct report may have their own startup or know someone who’s seeking an experienced Sales Director. You never know where reconnecting with a former colleague or even a total stranger might lead.
Be active on social media.
In a world where we’re more isolated than ever, social media is filling a critical void for in-person networking. Follow relevant hashtags for your industry to connect with other professionals in your field. Like and comment on their content. Publish your own using relevant hashtags to maximize visibility and engagement.
Join Facebook groups relevant to your industry and introduce yourself. It’s always good practice to periodically comb through your social media accounts to make sure there’s nothing that might raise eyebrows.
Join professional organizations.
If you’re not already, consider becoming a member of a professional organization in your industry. For example, if you’re in Public Relations, check out the Public Relations Society of America. Membership offers the benefits of current job listings, free monthly webinars, Covid-19 resources, and access to conferences and events.
All of these things can help you forge new connections and expand your network organically and strategically. Plus, membership can show potential employers that you’re keeping your skills fresh and that you’re up to date on industry best practices.
Go back to the basics.
Go old fashioned and activate your network in your local area. If you’re looking to transition from recruiting into sales, ask friends and family if they know anyone you can talk with to learn more. Reach out to them to set up a Zoom meeting or phone call.
If you’re job hunting, ask if they know anyone currently hiring. Consider talking with people at your place of worship (if applicable), your book club, or reaching out to former coworkers. You can even check social media groups for your town or city to see if anyone is actively trying to fill roles.
Extend a helping hand.
Ideally, you always want to have a strong network before you need something. After all, relationships are reciprocal and reaching out to ask for help is easier, and less uncomfortable, when you’ve already helped others.
Build the relationship first. Answer questions of other Sales Directors in your LinkedIn or Facebook groups. Offer advice to fellow Public Relations Managers that are struggling with difficult clients. Don’t forget to keep checking in regularly to maintain and nurture the relationship.
Virtual Networking Don’ts:
- Don’t get on a Zoom call in your pajamas. Dress like you would for an in-person meeting or event (i.e: wear pants!).
- Don’t sit in the dark. Bring the lamp closer to your desk for a little extra light. Let people see your face!
- Don’t use an unprofessional username. People want to collaborate with or hire people they like and trust. Be the professional you are.
- Don’t forget to be mindful of time zones. If you schedule a Zoom meeting, be aware of the time difference between a someone from the Bay Area and you in New York City.
- Don’t jump into someone’s inbox immediately asking for a job or favor.
Covid-19 has upended our “typical” ways of doing lots of things. But, thanks to technology, there’s several steps you can take today to continue to grow your network, even in this new normal.
Whatever you decide to do, always be courteous and professional. Now more than ever, your online presence is your first impression. Make sure it’s a good one.
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