Every working professional will agree that networking is a necessity—pandemic or no pandemic. Live on-ground events, conferences and informal networking groups provided ample opportunities to working professionals to expand their circle. However, in the current crisis, networking has completely moved to digital platforms owing to the restrictions on physical meetings. But many have doubts about the functionality and effectiveness of networking digitally.
Here's what we suggest—don't allow the restricted movement in the "new normal" dim your spirits or impact your leadership aspirations. The new normal has opened up new vistas for networking than ever before! Here's what you could do to continue "meeting" people in and outside your network to advance your career.
Fix the mindset
Most complexities are simplified when we shift our approach. So firstly, tell yourself that digital networking is the only option now. Yes, it was fun when you could dress up, travel and meet people at conferences and workshops. But now you can't do that. That's the new normal. Accept it, and you'll be more prepared to take the next step.
Get digitally dressed up!
Now that your mind is tuned to be a professional in the virtual world, you'll automatically realize that more than ever, your LinkedIn and social media profiles are where you make the first impression. Your online profile does exactly what you do when you meet someone in person—establish your personality.
Hence, before networking, spend time on your virtual profiles. Keep them updated and slick. For example, have a professionally clicked headshot. Keep an engaging description of the person and professional you are. Let it be fresh and alive, just as you are.
Tap into the fresh opportunities to network in the digital universe
Gone are the days when conferences and events used to happen in another city, and you had to fly down to attend them. Most didn't even live stream every session. Thanks to the pandemic, you can access them, wherever you may be, and many are by organizations that had never conducted e-meets before.
Similarly, many professionals and achievers have become more approachable than before. Virtual workplaces have broken barriers of physical locations and geographies. If you're looking to network with senior leaders within your organization, they will be more open to blocking a time to connect virtually simply because a lot of their travel time has now been freed up.
Be an active participant
Whether physical or virtual, there's only one way you can get noticed – when you speak up! Especially at a virtual event, being a passive listener is a death knell to networking aspirations. So, put up questions or views in the chat. Address your question to the speaker you're keen to network with. If there is an opportunity to ask questions with audio on, please do, but with a relevant question.
Make your communication meaningful
Always write well-crafted and personalized messages. No one responds to template communications. For example, after a virtual session, mention that you're grateful he/she addressed your question, and then write a bit about yourself and end with a call to action. Don't lose the opportunity to build on your fresh connection by sending a hasty, incomplete message or multiple messages that appear unprofessional. If you get a response that shows interest at the other end, you can then propose connecting on a video call and enjoy a live one-on-one conversation.
Continue the relationship and give back
Networking doesn't end at e-meetings. Stay connected to your contacts by engaging them in conversations that matter but do so with discretion. Don't tag people unnecessarily as it invades their privacy. Don't over post content. You don't want to become a blind spot.
Also, don't forget to give back to your existing network. When someone approaches you for their career advancement, see what you can do. The strongest connections are those where you help people, and they in turn help you grow organically.
So, leave aside your doubts about digital networking and get cracking on that keyboard! It's waiting for you to fire away. Happy networking!