Networking can be time-consuming and stressful. But, when it comes to building a career or business, the importance of networking is unparalleled. Networking can be the difference between landing your dream job or being picked over by another equally-qualified candidate who happens to know the right person. In fact, when it comes to landing a job, statistics show that 85% of positions are filled by networking!
Whether you’re looking for a new job, meeting with new clients, or even on the hunt for potential investors in your new company, you’ll need to know how to network effectively. However, with many people working hybrid or completely remote, it’s important to expand networking beyond your local footprint. Here are twelve tips that will help you network effectively online.
Meeting anyone for the first time is nerve-wracking. Even in a business setting, the thought process is similar to that of a first date: Are they even interested in meeting with me? If so, where do we meet? What should I wear?
Don’t be afraid to ask someone for a Zoom meeting—people are home and (often) have a little extra time on their hands. Even better, a study has shown that 84% of people actually prefer remote meetings versus face-to-face. Next time if you’re wondering if you should reach out to someone, stop worrying and ask yourself, “What’s the best that could happen?”
In-person meetings are usually 30 minutes or longer—this justifies the travel time it takes to meet face-to-face. Now since everyone is used to using Zoom, Skype, or Google Meet, there’s really little to no effort to meet. So, ask for a short meeting—10 or 15 minutes should suffice—and make the most of your time. Efficiency is key!
Virtual backgrounds are a must for video calls. When you use a virtual background, gone are the days of worrying about tidying up behind you or wondering if your kids are going to make an appearance. (Trust us, parents, this tool will help you avoid a situation like this one!) Using a virtual background helps maintain professionalism, keeps your home private, and helps avoid distractions on both sides of the conversation.
Having a steady list of networking icebreaker questions can be the difference between an awesome or an awkward Zoom call. Icebreakers are a great way to get the conversation flowing, and having at least two or three on hand is a safe way to ensure the conversation never dulls. (Pro tip: Icebreakers are also a key ingredient when you're learning how to network at conferences!)
In a large Zoom meeting and don’t know everyone? Use a HiHello virtual background that includes your digital business card. Your name, title, company, and logo are displayed on the left of your screen, and a QR code links to your digital business card on the right. Everyone in the meeting will know who you are and will have access to your contact information. Best of all, they’re completely free.
We don’t recommend rolling out of bed and hopping on a Zoom call within five minutes of waking up, but it’s completely fine not to get as dressed up for a meeting as you normally would. Look presentable, but don’t spend too much time getting ready (because no one else is!). And remember—all that matters is what people can see on the video call. (Professional up top, PJs down below is always a go-to!)
The human element of networking is something that doesn’t get the credit it deserves. We’re not robots—we’re living, breathing humans with feelings and emotions. Everyone’s in the same boat. Be understanding, courteous and respectful, and don’t forget to listen.
Making new connections is great, but it’s important to maintain them. Reach out to connections regularly, whether that’s in a follow-up email, a short Zoom call, or sending them an article you think they may be interested in. Remember, networking is about long-term relationship building.
We often think of social media as a chance to look at funny videos and relax, but it can be a great way to make new connections. Build your online presence and take advantage of platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter. Become a thought leader, comment on others’ posts, and focus on getting involved in content related to your industry.
Pre-pandemic attending a conference online may have looked like watching the video a few days post-conference, but virtual events have come a long way. With live streaming, message boards, and interactive activities, attending online events can be an excellent way to network. Keep an eye out for events in your industry, some may even be free.
Take advantage of the network you’ve already built by reaching out to your current network and asking for introductions. Chances are, they have other connections that they can introduce to you, and mutual connections may be more willing to connect with you.
Sending a connection request only takes a few clicks, and it can be easy to start sending out generic messages or blank requests. It’s important l to be careful when doing this, though it can feel impersonal and lead to being ignored. Instead, always write a short but personal message. This makes you more memorable and can help lead to a better networking relationship.