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Work From Home preventing you from making connections? Try these virtual networking tips
Let’s be honest, when you moved to Bangalore, you had expected to be taking advantage of your fancy office in a business park, meeting some big shot industry professionals and watching your career take off. But the pandemic has ensured that you’re stuck indoors in your hostel near Ecospace instead, with no one else around you. And while this may have put a damper on your plans, it doesn’t need to get in the way of your making strong professional connections.
Yes, we’re talking about remote networking. Because even if you can’t meet someone for an in-person conversation or invite them out for a coffee, you can still keep your network strong with the benefits of technology. So, don’t let anyone or anything stop you from making meaningful connections, these tips on virtual networking will surely help you expand your network.
Embrace the advantages
This might sound counterintuitive at first, but there are actually a lot of benefits to networking right now. First of all, if you’re an introvert, virtual networking will allow you to make connections without having to suffer through small talk or attend networking events. You can be a lot more intentional about who you approach, instead of leaving things up to chance meetings at a party. Since there’s no commute involved, you can actually stick to a stipulated time limit without worrying about traffic or distance, making you a lot more efficient. But the most important advantage you have when it comes to virtual networking is the amount of control you have. From your LinkedIn profile to your resume to your website, you can polish your digital presence to represent the best parts of you at all times. The remote environment allows you to plan and think through your first impression the way in-person meetings never would.
Acknowledge the discomfort
While there are all the advantages we’ve stated above, virtual networking does come with a discomfort factor too. Because the online method doesn’t often leave space for organic interactions. You don’t have chances to introduce yourself subtly, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Remember, everyone else is in the same boat. So, go ahead and embrace the discomfort and reach out anyway. These difficult times have actually made people a lot more likely to help, so it’s up to you to take the effort of reaching out to someone if you want something. You don’t have anything to lose – the worst they can say is ‘no.’
Specificity is key
The thing about going virtual is that everyone is doing it. Which means everyone’s inboxes are probably chock-a-block with unread messages. If you want your email to stand out and actually be read, it’s important to keep two things in mind – length and specificity. If you’re asking for guidance or a favour from someone, make it easy for them to figure out what you need. Making long-winded, sentimental requests is not the route to take here. Clarity and brevity are key – if you’re able to communicate what you need clearly and how much time is likely to be required, you’re more likely to get results. Keeping your text short and your subject line to the point also helps, as no one wants to read pages and pages of prose in an email.
Keep in touch
Reaching out to someone online is always easier when you’ve maintained a connection with them. And this doesn’t need to be a huge process – online, it’s easier than ever. If you’re planning to reach out to someone, or maintain a connection you already have, keep your relationship active by showing interest in their careers. This can be as simple as leaving a like on a blog they’ve written or sending them an article you think will interest them. These small acts will keep you on their radar, and can be as valuable as hour long phone calls or emails, when done consistently. It’s easy and quite low stakes, but it can make a world of difference, especially if you need a favour in the future.
While most of us have got into the habit of prefacing our emails with the line ‘I hope you’re safe and well,’ acknowledging the difficult time that we’re in at the moment can be crucial towards making your virtual networking effort successful. Especially if the person you’re reaching out to is from the medical field, from a minority community, or living in a particularly affected area, personalising your statement shows compassion beyond the usual courtesies. So even if you’re sitting in your hostel in Bommanahalli, you’ll be able to make a meaningful connection to someone in a different city or country simply by acknowledging their circumstances and showing gratitude for their time. But don’t go overboard either, or you’ll run the risk of appearing insincere.
These hacks are sure to set you off on the right foot on your remote networking journey. Keep them in mind and you’ll be able to foster and maintain meaningful connections in spite of the different obstacles in your path. Good luck!