Networking is a skill some are born with and others need to develop. Some are naturals, and others find it challenging.
Even before the pandemic, in our technology-driven world, we were often simultaneously more virtually connected and more physically isolated. Now, while we still live with social (and professional) distancing and work from home, circumstances make intentional networking more important than ever.
Whether you’re a gifted networker or one who benefits from coaching, here are networking strategies that can work for you in the new normal!
You may not naturally be outgoing, and that’s okay. Those of us who are introverts can feel more energized and productive with less interaction with others. However, when incorporating networking strategies in the new normal, it’s good to break out of your shell. In fact, in today’s world, being bold is required.
In-person networking events have been absent for months. While some may be returning, they’ll restart with new structures and limits. Handshakes and trading business cards will be things of the past for a while longer. Making connections today requires assertiveness and intention. This can be especially intimidating if you aim to network with professionals you may not already know, but that’s truly what LinkedIn is for. Search for professionals in your industry or with roles that are aligned with your professional passions. Message them and ask for a 15 minute call to learn more about their professional journey. If someone is not responsive in the way you hope, there are bound to be others who will give you a more receptive response. The goal isn’t to collect contacts like one might comic books; the aim is to make the right connections, those that will benefit both parties. Just go in with confidence knowing the greatness you offer, and others are certain to respond positively.
Two Way Street.
Too often, networking can be driven out of a need we have. We may be looking to add client relationships, to get another job or to find sponsors for an event or charity. In most cases, we desire to meet other professionals for a need we have. Remember that we can help others with their needs. When networking, it’s best to be proactive and offer your assistance with others’ needs before your own. Even if you don’t see a direct connection that helps your project, it’s always nice to help those in need, and in today’s world, there are plenty of professional with needs. Plus, you never know where your help can lead and who else you may meet through the support you provide.
Whether in person or virtually, networking opportunities often are in short time periods with lighter vibes. As important as it is to be professional and put your best foot forward, it’s also just as vital to be genuine. Making sure that you are truly representing yourself will more than likely make the relationship start strong and last longer. People gravitate to those they believe are being real and not acting with pretense. We want to help and invest our time in those we know we can trust. Give them every reason to trust you.
These days, a handwritten note is a rare item, and rare items are highly valued. After you make a good connection with a colleague, drop them a note in the mail (“snail mail” as it’s called nowadays). Sending off an email about how it was nice to meet them would be nice, sure, but why do that when you can stand out? Be different in the best way. Reference a part of the conversation that resonated with you to give it an even more personal touch.
Consistency is Key.
Attending one live or virtually networking event is a good start, but it should just be the start. You may make the connection who will change your professional life (or personal life too… who knows?) right away. However, attending or logging on to different networking events more frequently tends to yield better results. It also demonstrates your own professional consistency and follow through. Just be sure not to over commit yourself and spread yourself thin. Focusing on the organizations in areas you want to make connections will help you best use your time.
Whatever spurs you to practice these networking strategies, I hope these points make it the time well spent and mutually beneficial for you and those you meet for years to come!