These days, virtual networking is a massive part of how we expand our social and professional circles. I’m willing to bet that if you’re reading this, you’ve made a connection with at least one person online. Whether it was a personal or professional connection, it’s still considered virtual networking.
Given the current state of the working world, making those professional connections online is essential for growing in your career and marketing yourself.
Here are a few of my best tips for navigating the world of virtual networking and meeting incredible people online.
1. Use The Heck Out Of LinkedIn
LinkedIn is, at its core, a social media platform for businesses and professionals. If you’re a young professional and you aren’t on LinkedIn, you need to jump on that train. Pronto.
It’s as easy as creating an account, uploading a headshot, and listing relevant information about your past and present career activities. Once your account is looking good, you can get started. Here’s what I’ve found LinkedIn to be most useful for in regards to virtual networking:
Connecting With Your Current Network
I’d advise starting with the people you currently know and work with. If you go ahead and connect with your colleagues and friends now, you’ll have a way to keep in touch with them when or if your paths go separate ways.
I think LinkedIn is excellent for keeping updated on what your coworkers and colleagues are doing in the professional world, especially since a lot of us are working from home and aren’t able to catch up daily.
It’s also a great way to see what your peers are up to when it comes to their careers. If a friend of yours starts up a great new business, you’ll be most likely to find out about it on LinkedIn.
Rekindling Old Connections
Once you’ve connected with your current network on LinkedIn, it’s a good idea to start thinking back to who was in your previous personal and professional circles. This could include previous coworkers, old college friends, past professors, and more.
Remember: Sometimes it’s all about who you know in the professional world. If you work to maintain the business connections you make, you’re setting yourself up for success.
Making New Connections
One of my favorite things to use LinkedIn for is connecting with others in my industry or industries I’m interested in. It’s a great way to stay updated on what’s going on in your corner of the professional world. It’s also useful when you’re on the hunt for a new job or opportunity.
If your dream in life is to work in the fashion department of Seventeen, don’t be afraid to search for and connect with people who are already working in that department. Reach out and ask them about their job, how they got where they are, etc. You’ll probably learn something valuable, and your name will now be on their radar.
2. Join Facebook Groups
I’ve recently started joining Facebook groups as a way to expand my virtual network, and it’s working out nicely! There’s a Facebook group out there for almost every industry, no matter how small or specific.
Find The Right Groups
I consider my industry to be content creation. To find groups that will probably have members I want to connect with, I search for things like “content creators,” “content writers,” or “freelance writers” within Facebook’s groups. Then, I’ll check out the descriptions of the groups my search pulls up and determine which ones I want to join.
Some groups are meant strictly for networking and meeting other people in your industry. You’ll usually be able to pick up some valuable career advice from these groups, and you’ll have a pool of people you can discuss the ins and outs of your industry with.
Other groups are catered more towards helping you find jobs or other opportunities in your industry. These groups are fantastic if you’re looking for work.
Follow The Rules!
My number one tip for virtual networking through Facebook groups is to make sure you’re following the guidelines of the group. You don’t want to be banned or called out for breaking the rules.
3. Reach Out To People You Admire
This is a good practice whether you’re using social media or just trying to connect with someone directly.
Here’s A Personal Example:
I used to work as an editor and writer for a publishing company. At this point in my career, I’d been reading posts on The Happy Arkansan for a few months and had become a fan of the content. I reached out to Amanda to write a few articles for the magazine I was working on, and we started a working relationship. We kept in touch afterward.
After I shifted from working in an office to being a self-employed freelance writer, I spoke with Amanda and found out she needed a freelancer to help with her blog. Boom. I’m writing on The Happy Arkansan right now because I reached out to Amanda a few years ago, and we maintained contact.
Reach Out To The Right People
Every relationship you form won’t lead to something amazing, but the potential is there. Depending on your industry, here are a few ideas of people you can reach out to so you can build your network:
- Business owners
Don’t be afraid to virtually reach out and introduce yourself to someone you’ve never met. If they don’t respond, you haven’t lost anything except a little time. If they do respond, you just created a new connection that could grow to be valuable.
4. Give And Take
It’s super easy to fall into the habit of asking yourself, “What can this person do for me?” when you’re building your virtual network. You need to remember that networking, including virtual networking, is all about creating mutually beneficial relationships.
Your network is a resource for sure, but you don’t want to abuse it. It’s okay to reach out to people in your industry for career advice, but you shouldn’t expect them to invest a ton of their time into helping you. Some will, and that’s awesome, but you shouldn’t always expect it.
If you have a great piece of industry advice or an experience you think others will learn from reading about, don’t hesitate to post it on your LinkedIn or in a relevant Facebook group.
5. Believe In Yourself
This is so cliche, but it’s imperative when it comes to virtual networking. Imposter Syndrome can creep up here, especially if you’re younger or new to your industry. You might not feel like you have much to offer. I can tell you for a fact, though, that your insight is valuable. Plus, if people in your network see that you’re actively engaging with them and adding value to their lives, they’ll be much more willing to reciprocate.
Conclusion: Virtual Networking Is Essential
Whether you’re on the hunt for a new job or are trying to make a name for yourself in the business world, you need to work on building your virtual network. It can seem a little overwhelming and scary, but I know you can do it!
If you’re nervous about taking that leap and emailing someone out of the blue to build your network, make sure to brush up on your email writing skills beforehand. I promise you’ll feel much more confident if you feel good about the message you’re sending out. Here’s a post I recently wrote about building your professional email writing skills.