I am often asked about how to Network more effectively. In this time of coronavirus there are a lot of us who are networking more online and there certainly are a few ideas you can use to make you more effective. It is important to think that virtual networking is more than using LinkedIn, although that is a great starting point. Raising your profile and making yourself visible to others in your industry is a great start to networking and can be done virtually.
Plan out what you want to achieve with your networking. Having a plan of action allows you to break the task down into more manageable chunks. Ultimately it makes the task more achievable. Build time into your weekly or daily timetable to network and think what you want to say and who you want to say it to! If like me you don’t have the greatest of memories then keep notes on who you have spoken to and points you want to make to them. Think who do I already know that I can start with and build from their contacts? Who would I like to connect with and what will this mean to my ‘personal brand’ or reputation? LinkedIn is not the only place to go but it’s a great starting point. But also look at other sector and industry sites you can be on. Professional bodies will have communities you can work with.
Consider: What is my brand?
What do my peers think about me and what to they know about me from what I am posting or attending? When writing anything, be it a short post or a lengthy blog you should consider its impact. Think: how am I seen by my online audience? What perception will I create? How does this link to my career goals and aims? You need to be authentic and true to your own values. With your ‘mission’ clearly defined you can then work towards your goals. What do you want to say about yourself? What do your posts on your Facebook say about who you are and your values? Do they contradict the message you are putting out on LinkedIn? Building up a brand or reputation takes a lot of time and effort and can be undone so quickly.
Where are careers and employer events taking place?
There are events in a multitude of places. Like all universities Warwick has attempted to take its fairs and sector events online to enable you to connect with people and organisations. These events are usually timed around the recruitment deadlines so keep up to date and do not miss out on the opportunities they present to you.
What is the etiquette to networking at virtual events?
These ground rules are usually set out by the organiser so follow them. They often feature a chat facility where questions can be asked, but the general rule will be to mute your mic and keep your camera off until you are invited to turn them on. Do you have a question to ask? Can anyone suggest other organisations to join? Would you like to ask if you can connect to the speakers? Ask in the chat function.
When contacting with someone for the first time you need to be able to set out what you are hoping to achieve. Personalise your requests and don’t send out bulk emails that don’t explain who you are and what your goals are. Think if you were busy would you have time to the message you are about to send? Consider who your audience is and what impression you will give – it’s easy to be misunderstood so be clear in your communication. You need to strive to balance between being concise but not abrupt. If you have passion – let it show!
What other ways can you connect? How about entering competitions? Perhaps by setting up a network or group on LinkedIn based around your industry, or by using ones that already exist. Can you build a virtual portfolio? Are you connected to your university or departments alumni groups? Does your department have an alumni focused Facebook page? How well is it used? Why not create your own YouTube channel or have a blog/vlog and utilise these to get your message out? You can include these on your CV as hyperlinks if people want to visit them.
Once you build links what should you be doing next?
Create time in your diary to check in with new and existing contacts. This is about nurturing the contacts and allowing these relationships to build and develop. LinkedIn is one platform that has considered this aspect of networking and its gives users the functionality to do this. As your contacts change their companies or their roles you receive updates. This allows you the opportunity to reach out and congratulate them, adding your own message. It may be you meet a contact in a LinkedIn group and come across an article that you think would interest them so send it to them with a message.
Overall check out the wide range of resources that we have. Warwick Student Opportunity has its own YouTube channel and there are short videos on all aspects of networking. Have fun and be authentic in what you do. Ask yourself before you post or respond to anything on line, is this what I really think? And is it clear why I think this? Do enjoy your networking and show that fun and passion for the industry. Good luck.