For those like me who have kickstarted their career within the past year, you’ll be well aware that the ways of working that we have been introduced to are far from normal. Whilst it’s true that all I’ve ever known since entering the communications industry in January is Teams calls and one-off trips to a quiet office, it won’t be a surprise to learn that many of our adapted ways of working will turn out to be permanent changes.
Indeed, for many working from home has allowed greater flexibility, more time to spend with loved ones, and perhaps even greater productivity than they’ve seen in a long time.
Everyone will have seen the polls taking place on LinkedIn, asking people to respond in different ways indicating their choice of workplace moving forward. Overwhelmingly, it seems that many people wish to continue working from home full time, or at least for half of the week.
But what does this mean for our networking opportunities?
It seemed that lockdown put networking on pause, but if working from the comfort of our own homes is the new normal, how can we ensure that we are getting the most out of new opportunities in this virtual environment?
Networking will always be important in helping to provide insight into your chosen or new industry, to help you identify what employers may be looking for, and to meet people with similar interests who can provide insight from their different experiences.
For me, entering my career during lockdown has meant learning to network virtually from the very beginning – but this doesn’t have to be something that holds me back. In fact, with increasing numbers of people looking to network online, there are more opportunities than ever to make useful introductions virtually.
Below are a few tips that I have learned since starting out, that may help to point you in the right direction for navigating the complexities of the virtual networking world:
- Know your goals – it is essential that you know your intention when connecting with new people. Ask yourself what you hope to gain: are you returning to work from a career break and need some advice? Are you entering a new industry and are looking to learn more about how it works? Once this is clear, it will be easier to identify who you should be networking with.
- Use social media to your advantage – nowadays there are online communities for just about anything, by putting yourself out there and making connections online you will be surprised about the opportunities that may present themselves. This can even be as simple as using LinkedIn’s ‘People You May Know’ feature to connect with people you have commonalities with- be it the industry in which you work, the university you went to, or even mutual friends.
- Update your LinkedIn – engaging with others on social media means very little if your profile isn’t up to date with all your experience. Making updates on LinkedIn also notifies your connections by creating a post, this will likely appear on the feeds of secondary connections, expanding your opportunities to connect with the relevant people.
- Regularly schedule video meetings – although you may be sick of them by now, having the ability to chat virtually with confidence and clarity is essential if you are going to explore new opportunities online.
- Finally, keep your energy up! Networking virtually may at times be trying but making meaningful connections will open opportunities for greater support in your career goals in the long term.