“It’s not what you know. It’s who you know.” How many times have you heard that phrase? While it might seem like a cliche, most people with successful careers would agree that it’s true. If you want to make progress in your working life, you need to cultivate relationships with the mentors, employers, and clients who can provide you with more opportunities.
The problem with networking is that it’s harder than it sounds. Making authentic connections requires time, effort, and a long-term strategy. Luckily, the internet is making it easier to find and communicate with the movers and shakers in every field. If you can perfect the art of virtual networking, you’ll put yourself in a better position to advance in your career.
Why Networking Is So Important
Networking is a vital component of almost any career. Freelancers need to build a list of potential clients, gig workers want to hear from colleagues when a new platform or opportunity arises, and traditional jobholders benefit from mentors who can offer a fast track to better positions. Wherever you stand in today’s varied workforce, you’ll give yourself greater flexibility and earning potential if you build a network of reliable connections.
How The Internet Makes Networking Easier
Networking used to be intimidating, awkward, and time-consuming. To interact with important people in the pre-internet era, you had to meet with them in person or call them on the phone. Attending conferences could quickly get expensive, and face-to-face meetings could go horribly wrong. Many people, especially introverts, chose to forego the networking game altogether.
Virtual networking eliminates many of these concerns. Now, you can engage with colleagues through chat features, email, and other forms of digital messaging. Platforms like LinkedIn have emerged that are entirely dedicated to networking. Online events bring people together without the need for costly travel. If you’re not taking advantage of these opportunities, you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage in your career.
Three Tips for Effective Virtual Networking
While virtual networking might be easier than the in-person networking of old, it still requires some strategic thinking. Some ways of using the technology available will produce better results than others. By following a few simple guidelines, you can make better use of the tools at your disposal and create the type of diverse, influential network that’s sure to propel your career.
Take Advantage of Social Platforms
Platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook are called social “networks” for a reason. Their entire function is to bring people together in digital spaces. Once you commit to using these platforms for their original function – connecting with people – you unlock their full potential.
LinkedIn is the first digital space where any freelancer or gig worker should focus their attention. Employers, clients, and thought leaders congregate there for the expressed purpose of professional networking. Once you’ve made your profile, take some time to “connect” with people you know in your field. From there, you can message your connections, read interesting information, and show your value by posting content of your own.
While LinkedIn is the predominant “career-oriented” platform, don’t overlook the potential networking benefits of more informal platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Just by following important people in your industry and making intelligent comments related to your work, you can build meaningful relationships that lead to opportunities.
Attend Virtual Events (and Chat With Other Attendees)
Virtual events became the norm during the early days of the pandemic, and their inherent convenience means they’ll surely stay popular long after the lockdowns have ended. You can take advantage of this dynamic by signing up for events that relate to your field.
Not only are remote conferences and webinars great sources of information, but they also put all the other attendees within digital earshot. You can use the event’s chat feature to introduce yourself and grow your personal brand. Keep your spiel as brief as possible, sharing your name and LinkedIn profile along with a one-sentence description of your niche. Introducing yourself to dozens of people like this would take hours in the “real world.” Online, you can do it with just a few clicks.
Be Patient and Think Incrementally
Virtual networking is a long process. Don’t sacrifice the authenticity of your network by trying to take shortcuts. You might be able to make hundreds of connections on LinkedIn in just a few days, but most won’t offer you anything. It’s better to take your time and make each connection count. As long as you devote a few hours to networking every week and set yourself reasonable goals, your network will grow in a meaningful way that actually increases your professional opportunities.
About the Author: Ben Clabault is a freelance writer from Sandwich, Massachusetts. He has spent much of his adult life traveling through Latin America. He currently lives with his fiance in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala. His areas of expertise include travel, marketing, SaaS, and global cultures. You can find his work on Copyfolio and reach out to him on LinkedIn.