According to a 2016 study, nearly 85% of critical jobs are filled via some level of networking. This statistic isn’t surprising, given the importance that hiring plays in an organization’s overall strategy. If networking is critical to the hiring process, how does a job seeker continue to network in our new “socially distant” society brought on by COVID-19?
Build your plan
A proper networking schedule needs a well-thought plan. Successful networkers that had access to in-person networking opportunities pre-COVID likely didn’t just attend every event possible. They identified the groups, locations and scenarios that were likely to result in the best connections. Moving your networking to a more digital platform is no different.
Build your networking plan based on:
- Your desired career pathway
- The jobs and industries you are most interested in
It’s tempting to join every online group, forum, and virtual opportunity, but try to remain focused on the specific industries and career-oriented groups that are related to your specific career pathway.
Be social with social media
Social media allows networking connections that wouldn’t have been possible in the past. It’s easy to make one to one connections with hiring managers at the companies and industries you’re most interested in. However, there are also a number of more advanced networking opportunities on social media.
- Join Facebook or LinkedIn Groups within the industry you are most interested in.
- Follow hashtags on Instagram and Twitter related to skills, companies or people you’d like to connect with.
- Explore industry groups and topics on Reddit. You may also be able to ask individuals within industry groups for good leads on additional online meetups.
You will want to update your social profiles so they are professional. In general, you’ll want to spend 5-30 minutes on your social media each day, keeping up with others and continuing your presence.
Build relationships just like you would in real-life
Remember, you’re joining virtual groups to become part of the conversation, not to just ask for a job. Add value to the conversation where you can, just like in a real networking situation. You wouldn’t walk up to a crowd of strangers and ask for an interview or a new connection, so don’t do that online.
Think about how you can help the people you’d like to be connected with. There’s always something you can do for the other person when it comes to networking. Whether that means linking them with a connection or doing something as small as showing them new music (if you two are familiar), these gestures are meaningful.
Gary Burnison, the CEO of Korn Ferry, said, “If you want to be successful at networking, you must keep in mind that it really isn’t about you. It’s about building relationships—and relationships aren’t one-way streets.”
Find ways to connect virtually
Once you have established yourself within an industry, group, or individual, don’t be afraid to ask for a virtual meetup.
Instead of a phone call, find a way to schedule a “face to face” meeting with video using Facebook FaceTime, Zoom, or a similar video chat tool. COVID has removed a lot of the stigma behind virtual meetings, so you should feel confident about asking for some time to connect.
In addition to one on one meetups, virtual events have also become popular amongst employers. Virtual Hiring Events are online career fairs that allow you access to hiring managers from the comfort of your own home.
Be patient in your virtual networking
When reaching out to a potential connection, it’s important to realize that no one’s life looks the same as it did pre-COVID.
Routines have been broken, and many people’s stress loads have changed accordingly. It might take time for someone to respond back to your requests for connection. Add value, be persistent, but not too pushy in looking for a new connection. Give your new networking connections at least a week before following up.
The new world brings opportunity
It’s easy to look at the lack of in-person networking opportunities and feel like you’re stuck in an upward battle to get connected to the right individuals and groups. However, the skills-based economy that we are moving to is actually opening doors that didn’t exist before. COVID-19 has increased the number of jobs available for remote work, which opens your opportunities up immensely.
If you build your plan, spend time on social media and virtual events, and be patient and confident, you’re sure to ramp up your networking in no time.