Gone are the old networking tips of going industry events and bringing your best business card. These days everyone is just a click away, and your best representation is a personal website or a LinkedIn profile. (But if you really want a business card, the internet makes getting that done easier too!) These days, especially post-covid, much networking is done online! Here are some of the top 5 ways to connect and network today!
1. Keep your Online Presence Clean and Up to Date
Whether or not you are into coding or can do the bare minimum technologically speaking, you need to have an online presence. Between Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, WordPress etc. there are a multitude of places for you to find potential professionals to network with, and for potential new employers to find you. Keep your professional image polished and clean, and keep your private life under every single privacy protection setting you can. Networking with others is difficult enough without them reaching out to connect to find a picture of you drunk at a family member’s wedding.
On the flip side, a great LinkedIn profile or personal website makes it easier for people to reach out to you and for you to show off what you’ve been accomplishing lately. These can also help you establish your professional reputation and make it easier to connect to people, especially as many times sites like LinkedIn will recommend people to connect with based on those already in your network!
2. Reach Out
Once you have your online presence established and cleaned up, it’s time to start reaching out. If you are sending an invite to connect to someone on Linked In, or if you’re sending a professional an email, you need to go in with a plan. What are your career goals? Is this person in a similar role to you, or where you would like to go? Do they work for a company you’re interested in? Do you and this person have anything in common (Like a similar passion, a school you both went to, etc.) If this person would help you meet your career goals and you think they would be open to it, try reaching out. Before reaching out, make sure you do some research on the person to see where they’re most active. If they prefer Facebook and their settings are public, or if they mostly post to LinkedIn, try reaching out to them via that platform they frequent most. I recommend keeping it short and sweet so you don’t take up too much of their time. A good idea is if they’re local, offering a meet up over coffee, your treat. If they aren’t local, a meet up over Zoom.
The message should follow along these lines:
Hello (Person’s Name)
My name is blank, and I work as or at blank, brief intro. I am currently working towards (x goal or reason for contacting them) and I noticed you (work at/works as/ have achieved blank career goal)
Mention something you both have in common, like the school or a hobby or a side hustle.
I would really like to pick your brain about x.
If you’re interested, I would love to talk about [Work or industry related topic] and [in common topic] over coffee sometime.
Let me know if you’re interested, I look forward to hearing back from you!
Thank you for your time,
Name and Contact Info
This isn’t a tried and true formula because everyone’s different, and you should change up the language to reflect your own personal style and professional image! But having a template in mind for reaching out and a strategy can make sending that first message and email easier, and help it be more positively received by your potential new contact!
3. Build a Mutual Relationship
Once they agree to the meeting, it’s important you focus on what you’re bringing to the table too. Networking should not and will not only serve to benefit you. Once you have a handle on what your “value proposition” is (an innovation, service, or feature intended to make a company or product attractive to customers) you can be sure to offer it to your network, as you benefit from what they bring to the table too.
The relationship should be mutually nurtured as well. Social media makes it easier than ever to contact people. Don’t be afraid to send emails and messages if it’s been a week or two just to touch base and check in with your contacts progress on things you have previously discussed.
You don’t want to make your network, old contacts and new, feel as if you only ever contact them if you need something, that’s a good way to break down connections, which bring us to the next point:
4. Manners Maketh the Man (Or Woman)
No matter who you reach out to or who reaches out to you, you need to treat them with kindness and respect. The world is connected globally now, and if your potential contact is international, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to brush up on some of the etiquette local to them.
It’s also important to keep it professional. If you become friendlier with some of your network contacts than others, it will be okay to use some informal language. But you should still keep everything professional such as avoiding swearing, dressing office casual for zoom or in person meetings, avoiding touchy or too personal topics, etc.
And always, always, always remember to thank them for their time. Even if in worst case scenario they seem to drop off after some of the initial contact, it’s still important to thank them for the time they did give.
5. Follow Up, Follow Through
People are busy. Sometimes unknown emails fall through cracks, or notifications are silenced and not remembered, or sometimes, horror upon horror, a cell phone breaks.
We are all of us human, so the most important part of networking is remembering that and keeping in mind to follow up and follow through.
Follow up: Keep in contact with your contacts. If it’s been a few weeks or a month or longer, reach out, touch base. Use a recent accomplishment of theirs to re-break the ice. If you’ve already established contact with them in the past, a few sentences checking in on how they’re doing or congratulating them is more than acceptable, and keeps the lines of communication open. And make this a specific task. Put it on your calendar whether it’s virtual or physical, it’s important to set aside time for these follow ups so you can remain consistent.
Follow Through: If your new contact recommended you speak to another colleague or offers to review your resume, or if an old contact sent you an article or opportunity, make sure you follow through. Talk to the colleague, read the article, research and if you wish, apply for the opportunity, and then thank your contact. If you ignore the opportunities and don’t follow through on them, or even worse, you don’t follow through on promises made to your contacts, you burn the bridge you’ve built. You essentially make yourself look unreliable, untrustworthy, and flaky. Not a good or professional look, and that can spread through your network, preventing doors from being opened up to you in the future. Use the tools at your disposal like Zoom and LinkedIn and even Google Calendar to keep in better contact. Also to make networking easier and more efficient and to help remind you to follow through.
So remember these important tips, and feel free to reach out for more!
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