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. 

How do I remain confident while networking?

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

Before you start networking with others consider running a personal audit on your public profiles. Do you have a LinkedIn profile set up? (Read our article on how to get started on LinkedIn) Does your LinkedIn profile reflect your current experience? Are there any social media profiles you would not want a potential employer or mentor to see? Running a personal audit on what you have already posted online is a great way to familiarise yourself with how someone else will perceive you. This will help you feel confident that you are showcasing yourself to your best abilities and keep all your information up to date. 

Tip 2: Do your homework

Much like running an audit on yourself, run an audit on what companies or people you would like to get in touch with. Keeping a note of these people will help you to brush up your knowledge around this field of work, what they are up to and where to reach them. Set yourself goals on who you would like to build up the confidence to speak with, the more information you learn the more comfortable you will feel when bringing up conversation. 

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

Approaching people within your chosen sector can be difficult both face-to-face and online, but you can avoid this difficulty by reaching out to them in an appropriate manner. Having an active interest in the industry or the work that they do will help you to build initial relationships and encourage personable conversation. The job market is very competitive at the moment and if you’re networking effectively it could help you land your dream job.

Tip 5: Ask questions

Don’t be afraid to sign up for virtual events. Follow brands, key figures and companies you aspire to on social media to find out the next event. Many are held on video conferencing channels, so there is no pressure to meet anyone directly. You can interact with the guests by asking questions within the event discussion so that you’re developing knowledge around the chosen subject. If you struggle reaching out publicly, send the organisers an email after the event. Most organisers welcome this as the event ends, so take advantage of this. It’s less daunting and you can gain personalised answers directly. 

Tip 6: Get involved

Most networking events or discussion groups have hashtags they use so attendees and followers can get involved in the action. Take part in the discussion by using the hashtag to share your own views publicly. There is not as much pressure in doing this as you aren’t speaking to someone directly, but you are still within the network of discussion. This can help you to build your network as other users will be able to read and comment on your posts, allowing them to approach you first. 

Tip 7: Be personable

Networking is a pretty simple formula: it is all about creating new, genuine relationships. With the pandemic dominating many aspects of our lives right now, you can always check in with people to see how they are doing. You don’t need to have a game plan in place at all times, just practice human kindness. Be thoughtful and show them you care. Gestures of goodwill and pure friendship are more than allowed. By being genuinely you, you will feel more at ease. 

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

Have you seen a thought-provoking article or job opportunity online that might be of interest to someone you know? Send it to them or tag them directly. Even if you don’t know the person that well, this act shows your eagerness to help and that you’ve taken an interest in them. It can also be a great conversation starter to help you to make deeper professional connections. It gives you a purpose for remaining in contact and you may find that the person you send it to will be eager to return the favour and remember you again in future. 

Tip 10: Don’t give up

One of the biggest mistakes many people make when networking, both in-person and virtually, is giving up too easily when they get rejected. While you might be open to the idea of making connections and meeting new people, not everyone is. So, you need to become comfortable with the possibility of rejection or disinterest. If this happens, you need to brush yourself off, consider your approach and try again with someone else. Your consistency will eventually pay off! 
There is no one way to network, like everything, the more you interact with people in your industry the easier it will become. Don’t let your fear stop you from expanding your network, take small steps when you start out and consider our tips to remain calm. 

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