Eight tips for effective virtual networking

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Eight tips for effective virtual networking

We are all familiar with the traditional networking of having small talk, giving elevator pitches and exchanging numerous business cards. Attending events to shake hands meant forming a meaningful connection with another person. But with the coronavirus looming, people are social distancing, working from home and helping their children with virtual learning. Even in this new normal, we still need successful networking to meet people, have genuine conversations and add value. Accomplish this through virtual networking. You could learn about a job opening, get career advice, find a mentor, or meet a future client all from the comfort of your house with an internet connection, phone and computer.

1. Clarify goals and objectives

Establish your desired networking goal before you start. Identify the results of your efforts. Do you want to expand your connections? Are you trying to grow your business or advance in your company? Make a career change entirely? Learn something new? Be sure you know why you are reaching out to people so that you don’t waste time.

2. Reach out to your network

Since most people are staying close to home, check in on your contacts. People you know through online networking and in your existing professional circle might have full plates during this uncertain time. Reach out to them via social media. Use social media or email marketing as the first point of contact. Call or video chat if it is encouraged by your connection.

3. Search for online networking opportunities

Professional organizations and alumni groups are hosting online networking events so people can connect safely. Interact with likeminded people on Facebook or LinkedIn. Learn and share new skills and job search tips. You can add value when you join conversations, write meaningful comments and share knowledge.

4. Schedule virtual meetings

Send follow-up email marketing to those you meet during virtual networking events or groups. Sending email marketing to your strongest professional connections at least once every quarter. Don’t just reach out when you have a favor but to stay engaged and build a professional relationship.

5. Network with your manager and colleagues

Solid work performance and being enjoyable to work with will delight your team. Impress people while working from home with the soft skills of communication, time-management, independence and prioritization. Since you are working remotely, take the initiative and check in more often than you might otherwise. Keep them updated on your projects, work assignments and deadlines. Ask if there is anything else you can do. Your team will  appreciate your organization, dedication and proactivity. They’ll be grateful, especially if they are at home with young kids, taking care of someone or feeling ill. 

6. Follow up with the hosts of webinars, podcasts and blogs

Attending a webinar, virtual conference, listening to a podcast or reading a blog post are not exactly networking. But the information gathered could be an avenue to job leads, business contacts, career advice and coaching. Each segment or blog post usually allows participants to ask questions and interact with the host and/or guest. Take advantage and make comments or send a follow-up email.

7. Ask for informational interviews over Zoom

Now is the time to ask for virtual informational interviews. Zoom Videoconferencing is a popular platform used by many businesses. An informational interview is either 

  • Meeting a professional who is working in the organization or industry you are interested in
  • If you are making a career change, meeting an individual in your ideal position and asking how they got their start

Do your homework and learn how to properly conduct an informational interview as they are not the same as a traditional job interview. Educate yourself on questions to ask and how to plan and prepare.

8. Attend a virtual job fair

Virtual job fairs increased because of COVID-19. Dust off your resume and sign up for an upcoming fair. You will receive a schedule of events and a list of companies that will be participating along with the type of positions for hire. Depending on the fair, you could hear from the hiring managers about company culture, overall goals and types of candidate qualifications. Always remember to follow up with the hosts or hiring managers afterward. If you’re not interested in a job fair, go straight to the job boards instead. During a pandemic, remote jobs, companies, teams and taking interviews could be the new type of job fair.

These eight ways show the power of networking and its possibilities. You just never know who you are going to meet or what things they are going to offer you. In today’s workforce, who you know is just as important as what you know. For job seekers and entrepreneurs, it is essential to network and build strong professional relationships that can help lead to career success.