The vaccine is coming, the vaccine is coming! And soon it will be your turn. But it is not tomorrow, next week or next month, that you will meet new contacts at the Chamber of Commerce for a lunch and learn, or that you will be attending a conference to network with your peers. While waiting for the return of reunions and to meeting new acquaintances, as a professional, you recognize the importance of maintaining your network and the need to undertake activities to make it grow. To help you maintain a productive, efficient, and mutually beneficial network with your internal and external collaborators as well as business partners, here are 27 suggestions to help you network online to achieve your 2021 goals.
I– BEFORE YOU VIRTUALLY NETWORK
1) Just as you did when you participated in face-to-face networking activities, assign time slots to develop and maintain mutually beneficial professional relationships. Include networking in your weekly calendar.
2) Assign a profile of your desired contacts. In marketing we talk about creating a persona. List their common characteristics. Think about their habits. Think about what they do, where they are on the net and where they spend their time. Above all, learn about their current challenges. From that empathetic perspective, think about the ways in which you can help them.
3) Update your LinkedIn profile and your other social media images. Be strategic and unique, without losing sight of your role and your networking goals.
4) Write articles and post them on social media.
II– START BY CELEBRATING THE MEMBERS OF YOUR CURRENT NETWORK
Value them, appreciate each one and highlight the talents of those who already are in your professional circle. It is not uncommon to hear that we take for granted those who are closest to us and who are dear to us. We don’t invest in the relationships we already have. We don’t recognize them. Instead, we focus on finding new professionals to add to our network. Of course, as your needs and goals evolve it is important to add new blood. But it is just as wise, if not more, to recognize the people who contribute and have contributed to your progress as well as to your success. They are the ones who talk about you and they can even bring your new business opportunities or new candidates. Here are some suggestions you can put into practice now for your internal as well as external contacts, including your colleagues and clients.
5) Make a recommendation on LinkedIn. If this is your first time, here’s how. Add qualifiers and superlatives. Specify your relationship, your link to the person that you are recommending. Add its longevity. Describe the responsibilities that you entrusted. Highlight the person’s personality. And finally, recommend the person.
6) When it’s relevant to you, your expertise and sector of the economy, comment and share your contacts’ social media posts.
7) Invite them to a virtual cafe by sending in a coffee gift card ahead so they can treat themselves.
8) Refer one professional to another.
9) Take advantage of the New Year to send a greeting card that includes your gratitude for their ongoing support.
10) Congratulate when you notice a promotion, a new certification or a new contract.
11) Invite them to a training activity like a webinar on a topic that you know they enjoy.
12) Find out about their needs and share your contacts to help them achieve their vision.
13) Send reading suggestions of articles, blog posts or books.
III– PARTICIPATE IN VIRTUAL ACTIVITIES
Several associations and groups pivoted quickly and took a virtual turn to organize online activities. Go back in time and connect with your Alma Mater, search your certifications, find suppliers for the development of new skills. Sign up for their newsletter and participate in online activities.
To grow your connections before or after the activity:
14) Connect with organizers on social media.
15) Introduce yourself to the guest experts by email or on LinkedIn.
16) Raise your hand to help as a volunteer by donating your talents and time as well as serving on committees.
17) Invite them to a virtual café to share your journeys and discuss common areas of interest.
To make yourself visible and identify people of common interests during the activity:
18) Introduce yourself with your full name and contact details including your title and the company you work for, with the URL link to your LinkedIn profile.
19) Participate and interact when you have something positive and useful to mention.
20) Write down the names of those you “like” and introduce yourself by email or on social media. Start by specifying what you appreciated about their participation.
IV– ORGANIZE VIRTUAL ACTIVITIES
21) On your own behalf or on behalf of your employer, in connection with your expertise: organize a conference, a webinar or a workshop.
22) In collaboration with one or more other complementary partners, coordinate a congress with virtual kiosks, to promote your services and products.
23) For your team, community or clients, host a breakfast meeting with an expert who will discuss a topic of interest to each of these groups. For example, you could invite me over to talk about the five dimensions of cultural intelligence or bias awareness for an inclusive workplace.
24) For your customers and suppliers, offer them a virtual showcase. All may introduce themselves to in turn forge new relationships.
25) Give your team members the opportunity to showcase their local favorites with videos and photos.
26) Organize an online meet and greet welcome sessions with your clients for them to mingle.
Facilitate the session with questions such as:
What are you most professionally excited about these days?
What would the title of your TED Talk be?
What do you do when you are not working?
What’s the best business decision you’ve ever made?
What is your best professional piece of advice?
What object do you always travel with?
What’s your morning routine?
Tell me about a typical day in your role.
27) TAKE YOUR DAILY WALK BY CATCHING UP
This last suggestion is now my favourite way to bond with my inner circle of professionals who have become friends. Instead of meeting them for a coffee or a lunch as we did pre-COVID, we plan “walk n’ talk” dates. Each in our area, we walk and talk on the phone. This two in one is good for both, your physical and your mental health. It can also be applied to meetings with mentors and mentees.
Before the internet, according to the theory of the Hungarian writer, journalist and translator Frigyes Karinthy, you were six handshakes from the person that you wanted to add to your network. With the continuous evolution of information technologies and the opening up of the virtual world, thanks to instant messaging, you are now less than four degrees or separation from that coveted contact. So, while our world is still big and populating as we speak, online it’s a small world after all. Without time to travel and money spent on meals plus entertainment, virtual networking is cheaper and more productive than in person networking. Be creative but maintain your integrity. Do what you said you would do when you promised to do it. Because online or in person, you only have one reputation within your network and everywhere else on the internet.
Translated from published January 2021 article in La référence de l’Ordre des conseillers en ressources humaines du Québec (c) Julie Blais Comeau