The ongoing pandemic has taught us two important things:
- Everyone’s life can change overnight.
- There are more activities that can be performed online than we ever knew was possible.
About the first, we cannot really do much about. As for the latter, we should embrace new possibilities.
Like so many activities that have moved to virtual venues, networking has taken a new, exciting form that many of us can find more approachable. Traditional networking events are, as a rule, a nightmare for shy and introverted people who need a far longer checklist to get through it and see some results.
Online events offer freedom, in the true sense of the word. Needless to say, even socialites like their own comforts and nowhere does anyone feel more comfortable than at home. Just the realization that you can up and away whenever you’ve had enough magically removes the infamous stress levels..
Let’s see how this new form of networking works and what you can do to maximize the results.
Location Isn’t a Problem Anymore
Obviously, the first benefit of the otherwise confusing situation is that location isn’t a barrier anymore. Virtual gatherings have become a standard for numerous groups, including the most influential ones. E.g., Congress London has been sending weekly emails with employment offers to all their members across the globe.
On top of the practice being more relaxed, it is also considerably less expensive. This holds particularly true for international groups that bring together people from different countries and continents, who can now network online from their home or office.
Making and Maintaining Connections
Networking – both traditional and virtual – is all about connections. However, what many people fail to grasp at first (and some don’t learn even later) is that the goal of networking isn’t selling. No, you’re not selling your skills or your products. You’re simply making and maintaining connections that will help you grow in the future. Simply put, networking is very similar to relationships. Both sides need to contribute in order for the collaboration to grow and prosper.
Keeping that in mind, the right question to ask yourself would be: why would this person want to connect with me in the first place?
It is crucial to remember that looking for a new connection only when you need assistance is likely to be inefficient. Rather, approach networking from a different angle: what can you do for other people? Perhaps you can connect them with your colleagues and help them when they need assistance. In return, they will be there for you when you need them.
However, networking is quite different when it comes to other types of relationships. Because it is the business setting we are talking about here, it is crucial to state your purpose clearly. It would be optimal to find the people who operate in your chosen area and learn from them. From there, you may go a step further and see who you already know that can introduce you to the people you are looking to meet.
Don’t Neglect Your Online Identity
There’s that curious thing about the web: it knows more about you than you do yourself. Artificial intelligence is following your every move, making predictions about you, of course, all because the industry giants want to market their products and services to you.
Why is that important in this context?
Well, for one thing, remember that all your contacts (existing and potential) can easily look you up. We suggest you look yourself up before you do anything else. Locate all the embarrassing comments and misconducts and make note of notable achievements.
E.g., don’t use your personal alias to contact potential business associates. Nobody is saying you aren’t allowed to enjoy your private online time in any way you see fit but don’t mix the two aliases.
Keep your online profiles up to date so that people can look you up and form the image they need before they decide to commit to any relationship. In a sense, online networking is a personal brand building. It takes time, effort and wisdom, as well as maintaining the quality of your data.
Make New Connections Now so You Can Plan Your Career
Need we remind you that many people have found themselves either without jobs or suddenly working remotely without a clue how to go about it? The first have been forced to think about their next career move, whether they like it or not, and the second – about the uncertain future.
There are not many people who are currently living their “usual” lives, which means that this situation is novel to, more or less, everyone (with the notable exception of freelancers).
It is also to say that this is just the right time to make your move so that you can direct your future prospects in the desired direction. Start networking NOW!
In plain words, instead of asking your connections for a job recommendation, ask them who you can connect with, for starters.
Keep in Touch With Your Virtual Connections
Virtual networking is a new concept altogether, meaning it is certain to change a lot in the future. Many things are being addressed on the go, and the first thing people are wondering about is – how to get feedback or follow-ups.
Thankfully, email is still alive and kicking and it suits the purpose just perfectly. Sometimes, you won’t be able to obtain an attendee list, but you’ll certainly be able to get the info about speakers and panel representatives (coupled with their company names).
Emailing these people after the event is the fastest and most secure way to ask any questions you may have or obtain the feedback you need. This doesn’t mean that everyone is looking forward to answering your emails, but the worst-case scenario is they will just say no. Again, you’re sitting at home – at your leisure – and have absolutely nothing to lose.
Last but not least, if you’re an expert with the right connections, you may be able to add value to virtual networking events and conferences. If some of your colleagues or clients are participating, you can inquire whether you can participate, too.
Everything considered, virtual networking is not only a great way to maintain your connections and add new ones, but it is also a way to maintain your mental health. Considering the new circumstances and the pace of changes, many people find it difficult barely to cope, let alone find new opportunities. After all, when you don’t know whether you’ll be able to pay your taxes and feed your family in the next month, it is difficult to focus on anything else. And that’s exactly why you should embrace virtual networking: it will give you piece of mind, as well as help you pinpoint new opportunities and reinforce your strengths.