Online or virtual networking is more important than ever now. And it might be the only way to connect with like-minded professionals for a while. So how can you make it work for you and your career?
Here’s how to network online:
Be Professional as You Network Online
Before you focus on building your professional network, do an online search of yourself. Does everything you find pass as something you’d want a potential employer or professional connection to see? If not, remove the content or have it removed. Sometimes, it can be as simple as asking a friend to untag you from a photo. Or you may need to contact the platform administrator to have it taken down. At a minimum, consider changing your privacy settings so you decide who sees what. And if you can’t get rid of it, be prepared to explain it. Because if you found it, chances are others will too.
Use LinkedIn to Network Online
LinkedIn is the most important platform for professional online networking. Be sure that you completely fill out your profile with the most current information. Then, connect with people you know, especially within your industry. You can reach out to potential contacts directly with a message, or ask a mutual contact to introduce you via a LinkedIn message.
Be sure that your initial message is friendly and direct but focus on building a relationship—which is what networking is all about—and not on asking a favor or getting a job. Networking is a long game, so be patient. You can also join groups within the platform and become active on them to help you show up in others’ feeds. And you can start looking at job postings so you know what employers require when the time comes to reposition yourself.
Use Social Media for Virtual Networking
Wherever you choose to network online, be active. Follow blogs on topics you’re interested in that are related to your career. Engage with the writer and others through thoughtful comments. If you’re on Twitter or Instagram, you can join a conversation that’s built around a hashtag that people can follow. On Facebook and LinkedIn, join relevant groups and participate in conversations, or share relevant links that your friends and followers would be interested in. Follow a subreddit on Reddit that’s relevant to your industry and join the conversation there. Avoid politics, religion and other sensitive subjects. The whole idea is to be seen as an able, intelligent professional so always put your best foot forward.
Help Others in Your Online Network
Your online networking shouldn’t be just about you. Forge relationships that are mutually beneficial. When you see an opportunity for someone in your network, let them know. For example, maybe you connected with someone on LinkedIn because she works at a veterinary clinic you’d like to work at, but she posted asking for a recommendation for an HVAC tech to fix her heating system. Maybe you know someone who is great. Recommend them. Even if your connection doesn’t choose your friend, they’ll remember that you offered to help. Do what you can to help others and someday they may be in the position to return the favor.
Treat Virtual Meetings Like They Are In-Person
Video chats over platforms like Zoom and FaceTime are today’s replacement for in-person networking meetings. If you set up a meeting with someone, act like it will be in person. Wear clothes that you would wear for an in-person meeting, make sure the background is free of clutter and professional looking, and be on time. And test the connection beforehand to make sure your meeting will go off glitch-free.
Attend Virtual Career Fairs
Career fairs are one of the best places to meet new employers. You walk around, meet new people, explore career opportunities, and build your network. Did you know you can get these same benefits from the comfort of your home? Virtual career fairs are a relatively new way to grow a network to help you find a job.
At Charter College, we know great career training isn’t the end of your destination. You also want a long and lasting career. That’s why our Career Services team provides students with guidance on networking, the job hunt, and more. Want to learn about all the career programs offered at Charter College in Washington, Alaska, New Mexico, Montana and California? Fill out the form and someone from our team will be in touch.