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Top 10 tips for confident networking
Reaching out and presenting your best self to new people can feel daunting. But there are ways to help you prepare to put your best foot forward.
What you will learn
- Why it’s still important to network now, even during the current pandemic
- How to approach people online
- Tips to remain confident and collected while networking
Networking can be the best way to get your foot in the door, when kick-starting your career, changing roles, or seeking out new opportunities. By networking successfully, you can cut down on time and effort when looking for opportunities.
You may already know a family member or friend who can introduce you to someone who will be able to increase your chances of professional success.
However, networking can be a daunting process, especially during the current COVID-19 pandemic. We have seen a major shift in how we network, from face to face presentations to communicating over Microsoft Teams, Zoom and LinkedIn. We’re entering a new era of networking but there is no reason why we can’t stay social while social distancing and be confident while doing it.
Why should I network right now?
When you think of networking, you may be thinking of large events where likeminded people come together to share their thoughts around a specific topic, they might be there for a presentation or lecture or even for a launch of a new product.
However, networking can cover anything from a large-scale event to a casual meet up for coffee or even sending a message over LinkedIn. Now, as we move online to virtual networking we may be doing more of the latter. Despite this, now is not the time to stop networking, in fact, we should be doing it more when it’s even easier to reach people online than ever before.
As we’re all adapting to remote working and communicating online, our social behaviours are now starting to change. While Friday nights at the pub after work may be put on hold, we’re finding new ways to engage with our co-workers, family and friends.
The pandemic has allowed us to realise the importance of being social and interacting with each other, so it is important that we utilise the tools we have to connect with others in order to build working relationships, create job satisfaction and for building a network of like-minded individuals.
Social media network LinkedIn found that 86% of its users had found jobs through networking, with many utilising it as a recruitment resource. As most networking is now happening virtually, we’re all still learning to adopt the technology.
Whether you’re at the start of your career journey or even looking to explore different paths after being in your industry for years, it is okay to be hesitant or nervous about this new way of connecting but as we network more we will become more confident.
How can I network online?
With more people becoming available online it has become easier to network with people from different backgrounds and locations.
There are less barriers to reaching out to people as we adapt to working remotely. This presents more opportunities to get your foot in the door and network with people online.
There are many ways to network with people online - we’ve outlined a few below.
Send an email
It’s easy to begin networking with people you already know, someone you haven’t reached out to in a while or even if there is someone in your workplace let them know you would be interested in discussing something over a call. This is something you might not have been confident to do in a face-to-face setting previously, so right now is the best opportunity to speak with someone or ask for tips on your career while you have got the safety net of being behind a screen. The worst thing that could happen is they could just say no!
Send a message over social media
Much like an email, reaching out over social media is a more personable way to communicate with someone, whether they are someone you know in your everyday life or someone you aspire to know. Sending a message over social media, be it LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, can be a great way to spark up more casual conversations.
This is a great way to build an initial relationship with someone that you could later add to your contact list for career advice or work dilemmas.
Attend a virtual event
Now that most events are cancelled, we have seen virtual events becoming common practice. There are many companies out there hosting live events, webinars and Q&As with known people within a multitude of industries.
While these events might not be the easiest to have a chat with someone like real life, face-to-face events, this can be an advantage for people who may struggle with confidence.
These online events tend to be hosted on video conferences where you can interact with the guests and hosts by sending in your questions in the chat function; a great way to discuss your thoughts without the need for in-depth conversation.
Networking does not come naturally to us all. It may take some time to get used to reaching out to people but expanding your network and getting to know more people is worth it in the long run. Right now, is the perfect opportunity to get started with networking and when things start returning to normal you will have the confidence to network with groups of people.
To get you started, we have outlined ten tips for being confident online while networking.
Tip 1: Audit yourself
Tip 2: Do your homework
Tip 3: Make Connections
If you struggle with your confidence when networking the best thing to do is to network with people you already know. When the introduction barrier has already been broken, it becomes easier to naturally talk to someone. Don’t be worried about reaching out to them, send them an email or text or give them a call. You will already have key common interests which will make it less scary to talk with them.
Getting connected with mutual connections on LinkedIn, is less daunting than approaching someone you may not know. LinkedIn makes it easy to see who your mutual connections are which makes it easier to find new people to network with so send them a message and see if they can help you with any tips or advice on your career. Remember you shouldn’t connect with everyone, make sure you are connecting with the people you see value in communicating with and that they know why you are reaching out to them.
Tip 4: Avoid being blunt
Tip 5: Ask questions
Tip 6: Get involved
Tip 7: Be personable
Tip 8: Be tech ready
Before the pandemic, there were plenty of people that had little experience with video conferencing. That number has dropped dramatically. Whether an elderly relative has finally learned to fire up FaceTime or a senior executive forced to become a self-reliant Zoom user, now almost everybody has had a crash course on working with these systems.
With a growing number of people now welcoming video calls, web conferencing is likely going to be an even greater staple going forward. Don’t hesitate to use video calls to set up catch-up sessions with your colleagues and contacts. It’s the next best thing to seeing them in real life.
Tip 9: Be Generous
Tip 10: Don’t give up
Some other articles you may find helpful
Read our beginners guide to networking and discover ways to reach out today.
The future is digital – including your CV. Read our guide to building your profile from scratch.
Networking isn’t just formal – find out how different networks of people can help you get your next job.