Professional networking is an important part of any successful career, but making new connections can be difficult when, for example, a global pandemic has made meeting new people nearly impossible.
Fortunately, you can still connect with people in your industry by learning how to network online.
With the right strategy, you can leverage social media and other online tools to develop a robust professional network. Just because you can’t meet people face-to-face doesn’t mean you can give up networking entirely. Keep your networking journey moving with these 5 online networking tips.
Many people don’t think to network until they find themselves out of a job. When you’re already employed—or if you just aren’t naturally chatty—getting involved with industry communities can seem like an unnecessary chore. If you don’t start making connections until you’re laid off, however, you will find yourself having to build a network from scratch.
Networking online makes getting involved a lot easier. Connecting with people can be as simple as making a few comments on a LinkedIn post or participating in an industry forum.
When you check your new feed a few times each week, it’s easy to maintain an online presence and keep in contact with your peers. By making sure that you are always networking, even whether you are actively looking for work or not, your network will be ready to go when you need it.
The online relationships you develop can be fulfilling on their own, but they’ll really come in handy when you need help when you find yourself in need of advice, a referral, or a new job. A strong network of friends and contacts is still the best way to advance your career, even if the relationships are entirely online. Your next role could very well come from someone you met on Twitter.
When you start networking online, it’s best to try to connect with peers in your industry rather than with popular thought leaders. While following well-known influencers is a good way to stay current and keep up with the news of the day, the people you should really get to know are the people who you could be working alongside.
For example, if you have your eye on a particular company, try to connect with the people who work there rather than the CEO. Any connections inside desirable companies are great for your career prospects, and besides, you aren’t likely to find a direct line to the people at the top.
Don’t limit yourself to connecting with people you think can help you, however. Your goal doesn’t have to be to make powerful friends; it can simply be to make friends. Establishing an online network of your peers can help you stay engaged and feel like you belong in your profession.
It can also put you in a position to help others. Maybe you aren’t looking for a job, but someone in your network is, and your referral could be what it takes to get them an interview. People will remember what you’ve done for them, and the people you help today could be the ones helping you tomorrow.
Networking online has to be an active and ongoing process. You can’t just follow lots of people and wait for them to come to you. Opportunities come to those who look for them.
To become an active part of the community, find the spaces online where people in your industry congregate. The best places to focus on networking are social media platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Slack. On these platforms, professionals connect with one another, share each other's work, and discuss important issues in their industry.
Keep up with trending topics, follow important people, and subscribe to popular sources of online content. Sign up for newsletters, subscribe to Medium blogs, and visit forums. When something goes viral, offer your insights, and try to have productive conversations in the comment section. Your (polite, thoughtful) opinions will give your online peers a sense of who you are.
You should also keep an eye out for online conferences and other virtual events, like live chats or Q&As. Videoconferencing can be a great way to not only connect with your peers, but see their faces and hear their voices.
Being helpful is a great approach to making lasting connections online. When your only ways to network are online it can be difficult to make an impression, but lending a hand to those who need it is a great way to build a good reputation.
An easy way to help people out online is to share their work. This could be a blog post, a video, or even something as simple as a tweet. Promoting a webinar or blog that you think is interesting helps out not only the people who created it, but peers in your network who might find it useful. Any time you can start a conversation or introduce a new idea you may be helping someone out.
If someone has posted their portfolio or even their resume online, passing that along to your followers is a great way to help their career as well. You aren’t the only one trying to build a network, and when you help others grow theirs, yours grows along with it.
You can also do your best to connect other people in your network with each other. Referring someone for a job or encouraging some online acquaintances to meet for an informational interview can be great for their careers. If the resulting relationship is productive, the people you have connected will remember the favour.
While it’s important to participate, you shouldn’t just tweet for the sake of tweeting. Save your posts for when you really have something to say. It will be much easier to become a valued member of the community when you have actual insights to share.
To become knowledgeable and stay current, you should read widely in your industry. Read articles, join forums, and subscribe to relevant content. You should always be learning new things and seeking out new ideas. Your curiosity will make you a more interesting person, and your network will begin to appreciate your ideas.
Building your online network doesn’t have to be a chore. It can also make you a better, more interesting person.
Ben is a writer and customer support specialist with 5 years of experience helping job-seekers create their careers. He believes in the importance of a great resume and the power of coffee.
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