By DeVry University
We all heard the phrase, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” but how many of us actually know what steps we need to take to expand our professional circles?
Networking puts you in contact with people both in and out of your industry and can give you the chance to learn new skills, explore different career opportunities or receive mentorship.
While office environments and in-person events provide a natural place to meet and connect with others, online networking can be more challenging – and it’s understandable if you’re feeling a little apprehensive about it. If you’re ready to grow your contact list remotely, here are 6 tips for virtual networking:
1. Have a plan
Take some time to get organized and create a game plan for yourself. Research= people who you’d like to learn from or connect with and identify what your goals for networking are. Are you looking for mentorship? To gain insight into a profession? To meet for coffee and chat? Think about what you want, and what needs to happen to help yourself get there.
It’s also a good idea for you to have an expectation for yourself of how many hours you plan to dedicate to in-person or virtual networking. If you’re actively job hunting, for example, you may spend more time reaching out to people in the field you’re interested in, compared to someone who is looking to upskill or grow their connections in their current industry.
2. Be mindful of first impressions
If you’re reaching out to people online, take some time to make sure your accounts look polished and professional, especially work-based platforms like LinkedIn. It’s also not a bad idea to review your writing and communication style as well. When your message first hits their inbox, you want to make a good impression. Your social media should come across as professional and goal-oriented, but also personable. If you want people to take an interest in working with you, make sure you’ve taken the time to present your best self.
3. Utilize social media
People tend to gravitate toward others who have the same interests. Meeting people through online groups, in chats for online events or commenting on someone’s post can be a great way to strike up a conversation. Want to take it a step further? Browse Twitter for people in your industry and see what they’re writing about. Like and reshare posts that resonate with you, but make sure you write a little something to explain what you liked about it. Relationship building should be organic, not forced.
4. Put the people you’re contacting first
According to Job Search Strategist Hannah Morgan, coming into networking with a “me first” attitude can come across as pushy or self-serving. Networking, Morgan says, “is about building mutually beneficial relationships. Both parties walk away feeling like they gained something.” Aarti Gala, Vice President of Marketing Services for NetStrategies agrees. “Practically speaking, people recognize if you’re sending bulk or templated messages to connect,” she said in The Muse.
5. Build personal relationships through virtual networking
Networking can be initiated in a professional setting, but building lasting relationships requires personal connection. If you’re reaching out online, include something small but personal in your note. Did their post resonate with you? Do you have a unique perspective on their subject you’d like to share? Once a connection has been established, you can work on deepening the relationship. The Muse mentions author, founder and CEO Susan McPherson’s more personal approach: “Reframe the term ‘networking’,” she says, “to instead be ‘reaching out to connect on a deeper level.’” She also suggests phone conversations, face-to-face Zoom calls or taking “virtual walks” to take the conversation offline.
6. Be prepared
Planning thoughtful questions can help you look prepared and intentional if you’re chatting with someone on a video call. Ask informed questions about your contact’s background, but be ready with spontaneous follow-up questions as the conversation goes along. Rehearse any pitches or explanations to make them as clear and succinct as possible. If you’re both comfortable, ask to record sessions with the person so you can be as present as possible during the conversation. If not, take detailed notes.
Get Career Services Support at DeVry
Did you know that DeVry’s career services are available to our students while they’re in school and after graduation? We offer a robust range of Career Resources that you can take advantage of, including one-on-one career coaching, resume writing, job search strategy, personal branding guidance and more. Plus, you’ll gain access to virtual employer events and opportunities to connect with actively recruiting employers as a part of your online networking efforts.