Building Connections Virtually: Networking and Beyond

The COVID-19 pandemic brought dramatic changes to both the professional and social environments around the world. Personal interactions abruptly became virtual, which removes the valuable human connection. This sudden change complicated employees’ opportunities for typical networking. Lunches and coffee breaks at work became obsolete as employees worked from home, closed restaurants prohibited dinners and grabbing drinks with coworkers, and networking events and conferences were cancelled. For employees seeking to build their network, their opportunities nearly vanished.

Luckily, technology provides great opportunities to continue to connect with professionals and build your network. Whether you are looking for your next employer, trying to move up in your own company, or simply increasing your connections to set yourself up for the future, your professional network will serve as the basis of your opportunities. Therefore, be sure to take advantage of virtual methods to continue making and maintaining professional connections.

Social Media Can Be Professional

Most people think of social media networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, as personal outlets. Today, however, they can be extremely useful in job searches and building connections. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 84% of recruiters use social networks to search for talent. By simply having social media profiles, you are already increasing your presence in the virtual world and allowing recruiters access to you.

The most prominent social media network for professionals is LinkedIn. This platform has become a staple in creating and maintaining professional relationships, and for job and talent searches. Now that its prominence has influenced the professional world, there is even extensive advice available for how to create the most effective profile. Networking experts provide these top tips: choose a professional headshot, create a headline that brands yourself, and use keywords in your profile that recruiters in your industry may search for. They also recommend building meaningful connections, rather than focusing on the number of connections. It is important to continue to maintain these relationships by interacting with them on the social media platforms or communicating with them in a virtual manner. By staying on their radar and keeping them informed of your professional ambitions, you will be one of the first names they consider when they hear of an opportunity.

Make Interactions Meaningful

Once you grow your network, it is vital to maintain the relationships with regular interactions. Face-to-face interactions are usually more personable, as there is additional communication that comes from our body language, smile, and speaking tone. These types of interactions can also be more memorable. Begin by checking in with family, friends, and colleagues through Zoom or Skype to become comfortable with virtual face-to-face meetings. During your conversations, update them about your job search or current professional roles. By starting with people you know, you can become accustomed to these types of meetings in a comfortable setting. Also, your close network may have additional connections to provide.

When face-to-face communication may not seem appropriate, emails or messages are always a great way to check-in with others within your network. Stay up-to-date on social media, especially LinkedIn, and be on the lookout for circumstances that may warrant reaching out. For example, if you notice a colleague just started a new job, reach out and congratulate them. These brief interactions can maintain or even rekindle relationships so that you stay on the radar within your professional network.

Search for Online Networking Events

Now that companies are adapting virtual events, online conferences and networking events are becoming more prevalent. Keep an eye out for these opportunities, and take advantage of their offerings. Many experts and recruiters also provide advice about how to be most successful in these events. Be sure to research the companies attending beforehand, have your resume prepared, and follow-up with companies afterwards.

One benefit to the increasingly virtual world is that geographic locations are less of a hindrance. You could attend a virtual event or webinar from “virtually” anywhere! This can increase your chances to build connections and find opportunities. Even in virtual events, it can be a great opportunity to introduce yourself to new professionals and become aware of companies that may be hiring.

Although business practices and social interactions are changing, you can still build and maintain a professional network. Set yourself up for success, regardless of your current position, by continuing to focus on your connections. It may be different, but the virtual world is limitless. Take advantage of social media, online communications, and virtual events to increase your meaningful connections and overall professional opportunities.


© 2019 by The Pennington HR Institute

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