Did you know that networking is solely responsible for filling as many as 85% of jobs? About 80% of professionals trust networking to advance their careers.
Networking has been going digital for a while, but COVID-19 has fast-tracked that trend significantly. As everything from cocktail hours to conferences has gone on hold, professionals at all levels have relied on virtual solutions to keep their professional networks strong.
Whether you’re new to digital networking or just looking to up your game to keep up with the times, here’s what you need to know about connecting online in 2021.
With almost 740 million members worldwide, LinkedIn is the most important social media hub for professionals. Use it well.
LinkedIn groups are great resources for making new contacts. A quick search for “workforce development in groups” will reveal dozens of options, including the National Association of Workforce Development Professionals group.
Join a few groups that relate to your work, then start exploring them to see the resources people share. If something resonates with you, contribute to the conversation with a comment.
LinkedIn’s messaging service can connect you with almost anyone, from current and former colleagues to the person you met at a virtual conference last month. Take the opportunity to reach out to people you’d like to start a conversation with.
Comment on something you recall from your last interaction—for example: “I really appreciated the question you asked at that WIOA seminar”—and see if you can nurture a spark of conversation.
If you have a particular request, bring it up when the moment feels right.
Like in-person networking, digital networking requires that you be an asset before you ask for help. Think about what you bring to the table and how you can offer value to your online communities.
Sharing a resource is a great conversation-starter for your LinkedIn messages. It’s also a great way to build your reputation in digital communities and at virtual conferences. Answer questions in groups and offer support to new professionals in your field. When you have an ask, they’ll remember that you helped.
People miss their “work friends,” so groups like the Ellevate Network have created opportunities for people to connect. These groups create lasting professional bonds, inspire members and link people who can call on each other for help.
Find out if a similar group exists in your field. If not, tap some of your contacts to see if they might be interested. Aim to build a group with members at relatively the same stage in their careers, but not necessarily in the exact same field.
For example, if you mostly work with recipients of workforce grants/funding, you might choose to work with HR managers, career coaches or counselors.
As the trend of digital networking becomes more common, it’s important to stay up to date with how people are doing it. These days, it’s all about building digital communities and offering value.
Asking for help or advice is also fine and can help people to see you as committed to your work. In time, your digital network can become just as strong as any you build in person.