In today’s climate where working from home is the new normal, offices are closed (or operating at a reduced capacity) and events are cancelled, the prospect of networking can seem impossible. But networking is vital to your career progression; it will help you to develop and improve your skillset, stay on top of the latest trends in your industry, keep a pulse on the job market, meet prospective mentors, partners, and clients, and gain access to the necessary resources that will foster your career development.
But in the era of ‘Social Distancing’ how can we network effectively when we can’t interact face to face with others?
How to network virtually
Although we are physically apart, there are so many ways to connect with someone online. For example, LinkedIn is a very effective online networking tool. It’s considered the world’s largest professional network with over 30 million different companies listed on the site and nearly 675+ million users in more than 200 counties meaning there are plenty of opportunities for those looking to grow their network. It’s important to use LinkedIn to your advantage and take the time to:
1. Add people to your network
If you come across someone active within the same sectors as you, send them a connection request! It’s perfectly normal to feel unsure about reaching out during these challenging times, but as long as you are genuine and sensitive with your approach you can foster good communication with your new connection.
If you’re struggling to find relevant connections organically, consider using the search bar to look for and join relevant groups. For example, if you’re an engineer you could join Electrical Engineers World and Civil/Structural Engineering Network
Also, many of us have connection requests in our inboxes already - consider accepting new requests when they come in – you may not be presented with an opportunity straight away but there’s potential out there and you never know where a new connection could lead.
2. Get to know your network
It’s not enough to simply add new people on LinkedIn; you also need to develop relationships with them and create authentic connections. Have you introduced yourself to the person you connected with? Do you know what they do? Networking is often associated with small talk or handing out business cards, but the key to developing a network is to have genuine conversations with people and also remembering to offer your
help and support – it’s not just about what someone can do you for! Can you share your skills or expertise with the community?
By getting to know someone and providing value to them you could find a new mentor, discover a job opportunity or simply learn some invaluable career advice from someone who’s followed a similar career path to you.
It’s important to also get to know your current contacts if you don’t already - your next career opportunity, business partnership or even business to business partnership could lie within your existing network – so take the time to foster communication with them as well.
3. Produce your own valuable content
Take some time to demonstrate your expertise by posting regularly and engaging with your network’s posts – a
simple like and comment goes a long way. You could consider sharing news articles that you think could be interesting to your network and use these to encourage engagement.
If one of your LinkedIn posts appears popular, you could use this as inspiration for a longer article. Using LinkedIn’s article feature is a great way to reach out and engage with your network. Posts are limited to 1,300 characters whereas articles can be 125,000 characters in length giving you plenty of space to explore a topic in more detail and share your knowledge – ultimately growing your visibility online.
Be sure to pick topics that position you as a thought leader – news, updates and frequently asked questions
from your sector or industry could give you a good starting point. You could also use this space to share personal experiences, tips and advice.
Don’t forget to add hashtags when you share an article or post – this will help your content to reach a wider audience and could result in new connections!
4. Don’t forget to reach out to recruiters!
Just as you would use LinkedIn to find those working within your sector, you can also use LinkedIn to connect with recruiters who may be hiring in the industries you’re interested in. Connect with them and be sure to introduce yourself and what you do!
Keeping in contact with recruiters can be beneficial even if you aren’t actively looking for a new job or if they don’t have a job for you at that moment in time. Recruiters are knowledgeable about job market conditions, can advise on what skills are becoming more important, and can provide direction to your career.
If you are actively looking for a new role, make sure your LinkedIn profile is optimised so recruiters can find you.
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