Networking – the new normal
(Posted on 24/03/21)
With most of us still in lockdown, it has been a while since any of us attended an in-person, face to face networking event. In these precarious economic times, now, more than ever, we need to maintain our existing networks and, just as importantly, forge some new ones. This means that all of us are having to get used to a new normal with regards to networking, along with every other aspect of our working life.
Of course, some people genuinely enjoyed online networking long before anyone had heard of COVID-19. The rest of us may have wanted to avoid it at all costs as too different, too distant and perhaps just too difficult.
Now that online meetings have become the norm, and we have all had to get used to navigating our way round Teams, Zoom and Google Meet, one of the main barriers that might have stopped us getting involved before - namely technical know-how - has been lifted. Now we understand the platforms, we have to embrace a new technique too. Networking online has a lot more in common with face to face networking than you might think. Many of the same rules apply.
To work to make online networking meaningful and effective, here are ten points to bear in mind before you start:
- Remember that networking is not first and foremost about sealing a deal. It’s a great way to gain insights and some good advice and start to build relationships that will evolve over time.
- Start small. Social media platforms such as LinkedIn provide plenty of opportunities for networking of an informal nature. Attending a few webinars may be a good way to break yourself in gently to the world of digital networking and start to cultivate your contacts.
- Pick the right platform. Consider who do you want to meet and then do some research to find out where you are most likely to meet them online.
- Reach out to a mentor. Asking someone to introduce you to an online group is just as acceptable in the online world as it is in the real world. And a familiar face on a Zoom screen is just as comforting.
- Find your people. There are numerous online groups to join that focus on particular sectors, industries or interests. With so many people finding themselves in the same #workingfromhome boat, you will find many likeminded people, who are new to online networking too and just as nervous as you may be. Take some time to see what’s available and try several out before choosing a sensible number to follow.
- Contribute rather than just observing. Any networking group, online or not, works best when everyone participates. Don’t lurk on the fringes as if you don’t put anything in, you won’t get anything out.
- Time management is important to be most productive. Just as with face to face networking, decide how much time you want to spend on it every week or month and stick to that.
- Be authentic. Insincerity or prevarication seem to be even easier to spot in the cold light of Zoom than they are round a conference table.
- Make sure you make an effort. In an online meeting you may have to work harder to project what you want to say and make a lasting and positive impression.
- Don’t be afraid to take the plunge. What’s the worst that can happen? If you decide online networking is not for you in the long term, enjoy making some new online contacts while you have the opportunity. You can look forward to a time when you can meet up face to face once more.