This year of learning and working from home has taught us all new ways of connecting. While adjusting to the virtual environment has been challenging, it has also presented new opportunities for building our networks. Below are some tips and tricks from industry leaders and Leeds experts for building a remote networking strategy that we believe will last long into the future, even after it is safe to come back together in person.
The new “normal”
As we have adapted to this past year, new protocols and expectations have emerged that make some forms of networking easier and more accessible. For example:
- Folks in the business world expect people they have met online to send them a LinkedIn request. Where previously you might have been able to have a one-on-one conversation with someone interesting at an event, this is much more difficult over Zoom. LinkedIn offers the ideal platform to send someone a note after an event and introduce yourself. Be sure to tell the person where you “met” them, and why you are reaching out.
- A 30 minute phone call is a great format for an informational interview. No one has to travel, or set aside an open-ended window in their day. 30 minutes affords enough time to tell someone a bit about yourself and ask intelligent questions that allow you to learn more about them, while respecting their other commitments.
- There are no geographic limits to your networking.
- Network at the time of day that works for you. Online networking is largely asynchronous so take advantage of that to build regular time into your day.
- You can be very intentional and targeted in who you introduce yourself to. Where events contain some degree of chance and luck depending on who you happen to sit next to, the virtual world allows you to research and reach out to anyone you would like to talk to.
“In today’s world, networks are simply essential to unleash our shared human potential. In networks, we find knowledge, resources, connections and inspiration to help realize our purpose and to enable others to do the same. For that reason, every day, no matter how busy I am, I make a point to connect and give back to my network but also to knock on new doors, meet new people and grow the network’s potential.”
- Paloma Lopez , Co-Founder and CEO, Future Fit Foods
Tips and Tricks
We have collected some advice from career placement advisors, professional networking groups and companies on how you can make the most of virtual networking. Read on to find out more:
- Always say yes. When someone says they are open to a LinkedIn connection, reach out to them. If they invite you on a socially distanced walk, go!
- Ask for introductions, and then follow through in a timely manner. You can use LinkedIn to research who in your network knows someone with the job title you are interested in, or who works at a company you want to pursue. Go ahead and ask for an introduction, make sure to say why you want to meet that specific person, and then be sure to respond quickly when you are introduced.
Kierra Holroyd, Manager, Inclusive Diversity, Danone North America
- Know your first move. It’s totally ok to not know what you want to do long term. However, you should understand your short term plan well enough to tie it back to why you want help or to be considered for a future opportunity. Tell me what you want to do and how you were hoping I can assist.
- Pro Tip: always tell a recruiter why you want this job. Saying you want to “get your foot in the door” doesn’t really open…doors
- Following up once per quarter should be enough. Keep folks up to date on what you have going on, or pass along news or insights into the person’s interests or industry.
- Ask how you can help that person out. This is, in my opinion, one of the most underrated pieces of advice. Usually, if someone is networking with you it’s to help you out. They know you can’t provide a whole lot, but if you offer to help them they’ll at least remember it.
- Pro Tip: Be specific, say “If you ever need help working on a focus group or (insert pain point) let me know.”
- Don’t stop networking, even when you get a job.
Amy Haddon, VP Global Cleantech + Content Marketing, Energy & Sustainability Services, Schneider Electric
- Focus on making yourself stand out. Some tips:
- Your resume is like your business card – and many companies share resumes between hiring managers, so make sure yours looks sharp, professional, relevant, and keyword-rich.
- Same goes for LinkedIn and your other web-based activity. If you’re an interesting candidate, your future employer is guaranteed to check you out online.
- Both your resume and LinkedIn profile should speak to the value you can deliver. Why should they choose you over hundreds of other applicants? Highlight the ways you made a difference in your work and the relevant and transferable skills you have, regardless of your volume of experience.
- Do your homework! Learn everything you can about the role, the company, and the person you are meeting. Have 2-3 questions prepared that are about company strategy, challenges, and how you can make a difference (e.g. “what will you expect in the first 100 days from this role?”).
- Don’t cheat yourself out of any opportunities. For example, research demonstrates that women are significantly less likely to apply for jobs for which they are not 100% qualified. A good guideline is that if you’ve got 60-70% of the required skills, knowledge, or experience – go for it.
- The responsibility community is small. While you might not get that job today, that company might keep you in mind for the future. Or, they may recommend you to someone else. Keep it professional, don’t burn your bridges, and always follow-up.
Julie Zagars, Programming Director and Staff Manager, Naturally Boulder
- Networking events are about building connections. Be inquisitive and ask open-ended questions so you can develop relationships. These are hybrid social-business events so while attendees may be relaxed and talking about topics beyond work, they're still looking to find solutions to their business problems. If you can point people toward new resources, relevant news stories, services that make their lives easier, or other business contacts, you'll build value in yourself as a connection that they'll want to help in the future.
- After your initial interaction, follow up with your new contacts to stay top of mind. If someone has mentioned an upcoming webinar, see if you can participate... and even if you can't, can you help amplify their publicity by re-sharing info via social media to expand their audience?
- Some folks will need to encounter you a few times before they begin to open up so if you can, attend several networking events in a row hosted by the same organization to gain familiarity with the crowd. Even if you don't find the perfect contact in your initial experiences, perhaps you'll be able play matchmaker for two other professionals.
- Book Recommendation: Superconnector by Scott Gerber and Ryan Paugh
Angie Vermillion, Senior Manager, Employer Engagement, Office of Career Strategy, Leeds School of Business
- Have your elevator pitch ready and polished: be able to concisely explain your background and what you're seeking in 1-2 minutes.
- Treat virtual networking or interviewing the same as you would an in-person event. Research companies you are interested in, write down your questions, and set yourself up in a quiet, comfortable and familiar space.
- Additional resources: Virtual Networking….tips for the new normal and LinkedIn Learning Courses on Virtual Networking
John Helmers, Associate Director, Graduate Career Management, Leeds School of Business
- How you show up to anything is how you show up to everything, so for a networking event – even a virtual one – be sure to know your audience and dress the part! Be mindful of your presence in the virtual room, including lighting, framing, and background.
- Preparation is important. Asking informed questions is a sure way to stand out in a virtual environment.
- Links to resources: How to Network Like a Rockstar Virtually and How to Craft Your Pitch to Stand Out Virtually
Mark your calendars for Networking Naturally, Monday, March 8, 2021, 3:30-5:00 p.m. MST
CESR and Naturally Boulder are co-presenting this virtual networking event for the sustainability community. With multiple breakout rooms designed to boost your opportunities for connectivity, you’re guaranteed to meet new professional contacts and have a great time! Breakout rooms will be organized around functional areas such as Marketing, Operations, Supply Chain, Sustainability, and Finance. This event is designed for both students and working professionals. Students should email Sara Neuner or Justine Roberts to register.