Tags: Career Guidance, Career Development, blog

When it comes to career development and discovering new opportunities, a solid piece of advice is to 'network, network, network'. According to LinkedIn, 80% of professionals consider networking to be important to new job opportunities and career success, which means making new connections really can prove invaluable long-term. While networking in 2021 may look different from networking pre-pandemic, you can still build and maintain valuable professional relationships virtually. We have compiled a list of best practices to consider when looking to grow your network.

Virtual networking best practices

Quality over quantity

It's not about how many connections you have, but more importantly, who is in your network. On social media profiles such as LinkedIn, it is easy to get caught up on the size of your follower list, but be careful about who you connect with. Focus on people you know and trust, including former colleagues and friends, and when reaching out to somebody new, provide an introduction with context. 

Using the 'People you may know' feature on LinkedIn is a great place to start building your connections online - suggesting LinkedIn members you can connect with based on where you have worked, studied, and your current contact list.

Identify commonalities

When reaching out to someone new, share a personalised message explaining why you would like to connect with this person. If you have met in the past, or have a mutual connection, mention a detail that will help jog their memory and get the conversation started. Another way to reach out to someone new is by commenting on their posts to establish a mutual interest. 

Be sure to be authentic and only engage with people and topics that truly interest you in order to build the most relevant connections.

Utilise second-degree connections

Whether they are your friends, family, or LinkedIn connections, we all depend on introductions throughout our professional lives. Ask them to introduce you to somebody in their network (your second-degree connections) and give them context on why you’d be interested in meeting that person. They may even suggest other people they know who could be beneficial to you and would be willing to introduce you to. 

 Be sure to thank them for their time, even if the connection comes to nothing, and offer to return the favour in the future.

Online groups

Traditionally, we would rely on in-person events and meetings to network with people with the same interests. However, online groups and forums, including Facebook Groups, are a great way to chat with like-minded professionals with similar interests and goals. They are safe spaces centred around a theme, where you can strike up conversations by replying to those asking for advice, recommendations, or sharing industry news. 

Handpick between 3-5 groups to actively participate in and keep up-to-date with and aim to create a consistent presence, not just drop in now and again. 

Switch to video

Once a relationship has progressed online, why not move the chat over to video for a more personal connection? While virtual coffee dates and happy hours still feel different from an in-person meeting, facetime can be a great way to take the relationship to the next level. 

Share an instant video meeting link within an online chat or give them the option to schedule one for later using tools such as Calendly to share your availability in real-time. 

A strong professional network really can make a difference when it comes to advancing your career, so start growing your network today with the above tips. But remember, there is no point in growing your network if you cannot nurture and maintain it - another reason why it's so important to only connect with people who align with your professional goals.

Are you looking for your next career move? Our specialist recruitment consultants at Search have access to a wide range of career opportunities and can support you to get there. Contact us today.