Networking online – the new way to connect (at least for now.)
The events of the past month have caused a lot of people to shift gears when it comes to how they work, how they play, and how they connect. We might not be able to go anywhere, but that doesn’t mean you want to lose momentum when it comes to networking and making connections, especially if you’re looking for a job or working on the next step in your career.
Luckily, technology and a virtually connected world mean you don’t have to fall too far behind just because you’re quarantined.
Here are a few tips for networking online and utilizing the internet to make and nurture connections.
Approach the Gatekeepers First
This is especially important if you’re reaching out to an executive or c-level employee for the first time. For an initial connection, it’s a good idea to start with administrative assistants or even department heads instead of going straight to the top. Establishing a relationship with these people will increase the likelihood of a positive conversation when you do reach the person you’re looking to connect with.
Do Your Research (But Don’t Be Creepy)
You want to be personable so you should know a little bit about the person you’re reaching out to, but you don’t want to be weird about it. If the info is on a public site, it’s fair game. But you don’t want to make it obvious you did a deep dive into their Instagram by mentioning a vacation they took five years ago. Talk about things you have in common professionally, or in terms of how it relates to what you’re approaching them about. Most importantly, you don’t want to look like you don’t know anything about them since you’re the one reaching out.
Help Them Before You Ask Them To Help You
This might be tricky since you won’t really know what they need help with before you even speak with them, but one way is to share and interact with their social media. Give their business page a like. Share it with those who might be interested. Offer insightful comments on some of your favorite posts. Tag them in a post or two. If you’ve been interacting with them online, there’s a better chance they will recognize your name when you reach out and be appreciative of the interaction.
Cut the Chit Chat
When you’re talking in person, small talk is a great way to connect with someone before you jump into, “Hey, let’s work together!” Online is different. If you’re connecting with someone through email, you have to understand that you are probably one of the hundreds of emails they get in a day. When you’re talking in person, you have their complete attention, when you’re emailing, you have to fight for it.
Be brief. Get to the point. Try to say what you need to say in less than five lines.
Also, be clear about what you’re asking. They shouldn’t have to wonder what the heck your email was all about when they’re done reading.
Hone Your Image
You wouldn’t walk into a professional networking event in jeans and a t-shirt so don’t reach out to a professional connection with a profile that looks like you created it in college. You can choose which profiles you’re going to share with professional connections so if you want your Facebook profile to be an homage to your party days, go for it (but make it private, because employers will look for you), but make sure your LinkedIn profile gives the professional impression you want to deliver. A good rule of thumb, even on private profiles, is to not put anything up that you wouldn’t want a future employer to see.
Related: Create an Amazing LinkedIn Portfolio
Having a good online image also includes:
- Your email signature
- Your email address
- Your usernames
If you’re not sure what your online image is, Google yourself and see what comes up.
Personalize the Communication When Networking Online
Cut the “To whom it may concern,” business. Especially if your goal is making connections. If you’re emailing or reaching out to someone, use their name and try to include something personal in the first sentence. This is where the research you did will come in handy.
Instead of, “Hello, I hope you’re having a great day.” Try, “Hello Ms. Smith, how are you? I see we both went to _____, so if you’re like me, you might not be doing so well after that tough loss the other day.” Educational info is usually readily available online so it won’t be unusual to mention and it shows you’re interested.
Be Ready for Face-to-Face Networking
You might initiate the connection online, but you should always be prepared to meet in person, especially if you’re thinking about working together in some capacity. This might be hard if you’re not in the same area and could mean jumping on a virtual call, but don’t assume that your communication will remain only in email, text, or messaging.
If you’ve made a good impression virtually, it will be that much easier to build a relationship in the real world.
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