Networking During and After COVID-19
Interview as a business partner, not a job seeker.
Network as a subject matter expert, not a job seeker.
If you have not networked regularly recently or feel unsure about where to start, let’s start by reviewing what networking is not: it is not an activity that makes you feel uncomfortable, awkward, or inauthentic. Nor is it a conversation that comes out primarily of an urgent need. One idea to retain from this article is the mindset to network like a subject matter expert.
Career professionals often recommend that job seekers interview with potential employers as if they were a business partner – someone collaborative, able to offer solutions and understand the employer’s problems. It takes out the pressure and makes the two parties more equal in the interaction. Follow the same approach for networking. You are not ‘bothering’ or ‘asking’ first – you are offering value from the position of your expertise and building relationships based on this value.
While networking does involve occasionally asking for something, most of the time it is a collaborative, collegial behavior and a way to be present in your professional environment, see what others are doing, gain a deeper knowledge of your industry, and share your expertise.
Think about something your colleagues may benefit from – industry news, an association discount, a major conference program announced, an innovation unveiled, or an important reminder about changes to the regulations.
Networking goals can include:
➥building or enhancing relationships
➥having insightful, collaborative conversations
➥identifying opportunities to share knowledge (platforms, organizations, events, co-authors, or new audiences)
➥discovering connections to advance your market/job research
➥gaining access to decision-makers
➥getting a referral or a job
➥accessing the hidden job market
Everyone’s networking style is different, and you will choose the activities that work best for you – based on your goals and communication style. Consistency is key. Build positive habits and assess results as you go. Let’s review the networking activities you can start practicing this week.
Nurture a network of colleagues who do the same work you do.
This is done for collaborations, referrals, learning from each other, and raising the standards of the profession.
We all have various specializations and skill sets within our industries. Know some of the colleagues you would refer your clients to if you had an emergency. Know your colleagues’ narrow specializations to refer a client for whom you are not the best fit. A thankful client or a colleague will recommend you in return. Meet colleagues through conferences, association memberships, social media, industry events, newsletter subscriptions, or industry forums.
Become a Subject Matter Expert in your niche.
Whether you are self-employed or working full-time, a reputation for specialized knowledge will help you attract your ideal client/employer and gain an advantage over competitors.
You can share your expertise in the following ways:
➥present at a conference
➥volunteer on a committee
➥conduct a webinar for a professional association
➥participate in professional Facebook or LinkedIn groups (choose the most actives ones)
➥create and share worksheets, infographics, or videos
➥choose 1-2 local organizations to offer pro bono services
You can also create your own platform (website, podcast, or newsletter) to share useful insights. Additionally, consider writing articles for the media, association blogs, your own blog, or use LinkedIn article feature. The quality of your content will augment your credibility.
Educate your immediate network of service providers about your own services.
Communicate with your local schools, spiritual organizations, sports clubs, accountant, hairdresser, lawyer, dentist, real estate agent, financial planner, or other consultants about your services and audiences you work with.
Explain what problems you can potentially solve for people and how. Each of these professionals has a network of clients and acquaintances who may be looking for your expertise. Word-of-mouth referrals are some of the most common and trusted means of finding services.
Stay in touch with former colleagues and school alumni.
People who have shared a workplace or a formative experience with you would likely enjoy hearing about how your career is evolving. Keep in touch with them, share your successes, and learn about theirs.
Build a network of professionals who work in the fields that intersect with yours.
For example, as a resume writer, I may network with graphic designers, editors, wellness coaches, social workers, lawyers, interview coaches, immigration consultants, and business trainers.
A real estate broker may have a network of car dealers, lawyers, finance professionals, renovation professionals, moving service providers, architects, interior designers, gardeners, cleaners, plumbers, solar energy companies, and various other services for homeowners.
Identify the industries and fields where your services intersect and build a network of such professionals through meetups, introductions, industry events, or referrals. It is easy to forget earlier points of contact; consider creating a spreadsheet of individuals, their services, and contact information for future reference.
Identify mutual connections and ask for introductions.
An introduction by a mutual contact can be more effective than a cold email. Think about whether you already have mutual connections with the hiring manager you are trying to have a conversation with. If not, can you look for mutual connection by asking around, doing your research, or connecting with company employers on LinkedIn? Go through your lists of associations, partners, vendors, and former colleagues for ideas.
Share your expertise as a presenter.
To increase your visibility, uou can conduct workshops, presentations, or webinars (paid or unpaid) at a variety of organizations, depending on the value you are offering and your community groups.
These can include professional associations, local chapters of associations, national conferences, chamber of commerce events, local universities and colleges, non-profit organizations, library event programs, or community group volunteering. Other options include facilitating panel discussions or recording a high-quality ‘how-to’ video and sharing it via your YouTube channel.
Collect and use positive feedback.
Endorsements and LinkedIn recommendations are a great way to verify your experience. Ask for recommendations to strengthen your profile. Give recommendations to compliment people whose work you liked.
If you get an email with positive feedback or have a recent letter of recommendation from past colleagues, ask if they do not mind sharing their impressions in your LinkedIn recommendations. Not all people know how to post a recommendation. LinkedIn functionality changes, and something that worked in the past may no longer work. In your request for a recommendation, include a link to your profile and the instructions on how to post a recommendation to your profile.
Explain that to post a recommendation, the person would need to click on “More” on your profile.
Share news about your next steps with your network.
If you are actively looking for a new job, launching a new website, relocating to another city, or opening a new office, engage actively with your network to let them know. Ask them to keep their eyes open for potential connections. Ask them if they could introduce you to someone in their network who could benefit from your services.
Spread the word with an email, a LinkedIn post, a post on your personal social media, or a few phone calls. Be strategic about whom you contact and when. Here’s an example of a post:
I wanted to take a brief moment to let you know what I will be looking for a new role as a sales manager in retail. If you can think of anyone in my industry, I’m happy to network and appreciate introductions. In the past, I have built innovative, fully automated platforms for sales teams that make it possible to respond to customers quickly, engage them via their preferred social channels, and check momentarily if the products are in stock. Associates at XYZ loved this program and reached their sales goals faster, simply by reviewing metrics on their iPads and following the suggestions. I look forward to meeting new teams and optimizing processes for my next employer! Your support is much appreciated.
Use business cards and optimize your email signature.
Have business cards to share when meeting new colleagues or service providers. For online networking, make sure your email signature has your full contact information, with the addition of your photo and links to your online presence. Services like WiseStamp offer free and paid simple tools to create and integrate email signatures.
Schedule brief lunch meetings and maintain contact.
Keeping in touch with your network throughout your career is essential. Many people turn to networking when they are looking for a new role or need urgent advice. Instead, define for yourself how you will engage with and deliver value for your network throughout the year.
Aim to give and share quality information regularly – for communication and professionalism. With some people in your network you may establish a tradition of occasionally going to business lunches. For others, you may have ideas to share via email. If you can think of a group of people who can benefit from what you learned recently, summarize that information in a LinkedIn post.
Create a list of potential employers.
Make a list of 20-30 target employers and regularly review their news, updates, and career pages. Learn about the company culture from their website, social media, and profiles of current employees. Connect with the people who work at these organizations. You can ask them questions about the role responsibilities, most recent company projects, or company culture. Think of these as long-term, collegial relationships to share ideas and help each other.
Create a list of interesting events in your area.
Schedules can fill up quickly with obligations. Plan ahead to attend professional, cultural, or wellness/leisure events in your area – for inspiration. When you are relaxed and enjoying your time, you may easily meet interesting connections.
Be a good listener.
Networking is about building relationships, and relationships are strengthened when both parties take a genuine interest in each other and meet as equals. Ask insightful questions to learn what motivates your new connections and what they are working on.
Be ready to introduce yourself in a pithy, engaging way.
Know your ‘elevator pitch’ so you can easily introduce yourself when the opportunity comes. It is important to be able to articulate what you do in a few words – with precision, confidence, and willingness to assist. Provide only as much detail as is necessary to establish your initial introduction and ask the colleague if they would like you to expand on any of the things you said.
For example, if I am networking at an editorial conference, I might say:
I am a copyeditor and a professional resume writer. My copyediting work comes from my background in getting a Master’s in Literature and teaching writing. Last year, I got to work on a few books about art history and ethnography. My primary line of work is resume writing. I’ve been doing it for 7 years, working with all industries, including several copyeditors who may be attending this conference. Does any of this intersect with your projects?
Use cold calls, emails, and introductions strategically – when you know enough about the person or the company you are contacting.
You will also need your ‘elevator pitch’ for cold email and LinkedIn introductions. In addition, note why you are reaching out to this individual – state something you have in common or how you learned about their work and what you hope to achieve by connecting with them (collaborate on a project, thank them for their content, join their network, ask a question about something that falls under their expertise).
I recently joined The Society for Editing and reviewed some of their recorded webinars, including your presentation “Grammar Arcana.” I loved how you addressed fused participles and the use of genitive with a gerund. I have been hesitant about these types of sentences for some time, and your examples were spot-on. Thank you for that! I’d love to connect with you on LinkedIn. I specialize in XYZ and will be glad to share expertise, if applicable.
You may also use LinkedIn messaging to connect with the decision-makers and hiring managers after you have applied for a job. It is a great way to alert them about your application and let them know that you are available to provide more information.
Dear Mr. Smith,
I’m a sales manager with 10+ years of experience in implementing IT solutions for retail. Last week, I applied for the role of Sr. Sales Manager at your company and will be happy to get in touch at your convenience to discuss your business goals. I noticed on the job description that you are looking for [XYZ skills]. Most recently, I created an iPad platform to support sales associates with an efficient visualization of sales goals, product availability, and customer behaviors. We increased sales by 56% and customer satisfaction by 65% with this innovation. I’d love to expand on its success and learn more about your team’s immediate challenges. I’m available at [phone number].
Network online regularly.
A lot of networking and professional development is happening online during the pandemic. Make good use of these opportunities and set your weekly goals. You may want to give yourself 30-60 minutes a week to identify new opportunities, send introductions, request a quick call, attend online events, contribute to discussions in social media groups, pitch ideas for collaboration, or share/update your portfolio online.
Be consistent and original with what you share.
Be strategic when sharing content on LinkedIn or via other professional channels. Define your audience’s preferences, interests, and pain points. Assess what types of content they will find useful and create a balance of media (video, podcast, article, and/or infographic).
Create a balance between your own content and third-party content. Identify some of the leading voices, sources, and organizations in your field and occasionally share their content. Write your own content to address a question that is relevant to your audience.
Once in a while, tell an interesting story (balance pathos and logos; avoid relying on emotion too much simply to gain more reactions). Needless to say, think of everything you put in writing as public.
Thank people genuinely and follow up.
If you learn something useful or enjoy someone’s content, it is a great opportunity to thank the event organizers or authors. They would love to hear that their effort was appreciated. Indicate specific ways in which it was helpful to you and how it impacts your work.
Ask for referrals and recommendations.
If you do not ask, you are missing opportunities. Find a non-invasive way to articulate your request for a recommendation or an introduction to a potential client. For example, I may put a few sentences in my final email that I send with the completed project:
Finally, if you have a moment, please leave me a LinkedIn recommendation here www.linkedin.com/in/tmykhaylychenko or introduce me to someone in your network who could benefit from my services. I’ll take good care of their documents.
Let’s wrap up with a few practical activities. I would like to invite you to start a few notes for your networking practice.
✔ Define your goals:
Write down your 3 immediate networking goals.
Write down your 3 long-term networking goals.
✔ Start drafting these 5 lists this week; revise and expand them as you go:
1. A list of all the communities in your life (your networking map): former colleagues, university alumni, thankful clients, friends, family, neighbors, professional associations, and people you met at cultural, sports, leisure, or spiritual organizations. Identify individuals in these groups who are supportive and resourceful and inform them of your goals and services.
2. A list of your top skills and differentiators – your professional value that potential clients and employers can benefit from. This is a combination of your hard and soft skills, verifiable experience, recent achievements, and key credentials. Based on this list, you will articulate your introductions and ‘elevator pitch.’ Remember that you are networking as a subject matter expert, not as a ‘job seeker.’
3. A list of your favorite online platforms. This can include LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook groups, professional association blogs or forums, listservs, industry publications (Forbes, etc.), and your own online tools (website, portfolio, video channel, podcast). Choose your top few platforms to make it manageable and fulfilling.
4. Ideas you would like to discuss with your network (focus on others and the industry): your colleagues’ interests and goals, values in the workplace, professional standards, job market, future trends, recent challenges, innovations, your specializations, and your clients’ problems.
5. A list of top 5-10 voices or organizations in your field whose content you read regularly for professional development and could share with your network.
✔ Additional resources:
Brief networking tips: https://careerprocanada.ca/the-abcs-of-networking-you-cant-excel-without-them/
Networking for rapport, information, and results: https://careerprocanada.ca/the-art-of-effective-networking/
LinkedIn profile checklist: https://careerprocanada.ca/level-up-your-career-with-linkedin/
LinkedIn view counts explained: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/linkedin-view-counts-explained-john-espirian/
Podcast episode “How to Get Referred into Your Dream Job”: https://www.voiceamerica.com/episode/128787/how-to-get-referred-into-your-dream-job-the-power-of-connection
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