Like most things in the last several months, in-person networking events and seminars have vanished from our social calendars. And in their place — well, not a whole lot.
Lucky for us, social distancing measures have reinvigorated our craving for human connection. And professionals are using this time to develop deeper working relationships and grow their nexuses, even if it is digitally. Don’t put your career development on pause, and use these three ways to successfully build your network virtually.
Be intentional with your networking goals. What is it that you’d like to achieve with your new connections? A mentor relationship? Learn a new skill? These are all questions you should ask yourself before seeking new contacts, warm or cold. And remember: be genuine. People can instantly sense when an approach is coming from a self-serving place rather than a mutually beneficial one. Each new message or introduction is a seed that may or may not sprout — and that should be OK with you. But if you’re generous and can offer something valuable in return, people will want to buy into that.
Be proactive with your networking efforts by asking to schedule virtual cups of coffee with new contacts. With stay-at-home orders and other isolation measures in place, people are more open to these type of interactions. Busy schedules have cleared and important meetings indefinitely postponed — take advantage of this unique time by developing these relationships now. Pro-tip: Don’t let the meetings be a one-time thing. Make sure to nurture your new relationships with follow-up video chats and continued conversations.
Just because in-person events are no longer an option, there are still various virtual opportunities to stay active in your professional community. LinkedIn is a great platform for finding topical events in your industry, especially with its unique Pages tool that enables users to drive awareness of their online events. Meetup is also a free, user-friendly online service that allows professionals to find the best, most relevant events for them. Embed yourself in the conversation and look out for ways to engage with people following the event. You never know where your next great connection will come from.