Networking can help you find your next job, meet a new mentor, introduce you to the person of your dreams, and connect you with new clients. Enrolling in online courses and webinars can put you in a position to meet new and interesting people, but then it’s all up to you to take the next steps. How to network in the digital age when you can’t walk up to someone, smile, and introduce yourself? It’s easier than you think! Below are six tips on how to build your digital rolodex fast.
Participate in course activities and discussions, and listen
Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask questions. Whether you’re in a zoom call or in a Facebook group, be a conversation starter. Comment and interact with others, help solve problems, and share new ideas. Be a leader, but be careful not to monopolize the conversation; you should always leave room for others to share their opinions and contribute.
If you’re unsure of how to approach people, don’t fret. The easiest way to generate topics to connect with people is by exercising your very best listening skills. Pay special attention to classmates who bring up business problems they are facing or areas they are stuck in. Paying attention to these tidbits will give you countless windows of opportunity to reach out to someone and offer your guidance and help. Additionally, celebrate their wins! If a classmate shares that they just hit a milestone, reach out to congratulate them. This is a great way to introduce yourself and kick off a conversation that can lead to a strong connection down the line.
Define your networking goals
Defining your networking goals will help you stay focused, protect your time, and ensure you’re not reaching out to anybody and everybody you come into virtual contact with. Identify the type of person you want to make contact with and what you’d like to gain from the connection (or what you want to give to them). For example, if you have a goal of becoming a better public speaker, look to identify someone in your course group who speaks confidentiality and clearly. Consider connecting with this person, compliment their speaking skills, and ask if they have recommendations of books or other materials that helped them develop this skill. Do remember that not all networking needs to serve a specific professional purpose; you may simply want to make a few extra friends in the industry. Making new friends can certainly be one of your goals.
Don’t forget that a selfish interaction is never a fruitful one. Even when asking for advice, always ask what you can do in return. Offer to give feedback, review their content, or help them solve a problem they’re facing with their business.
Leave a good impression
When spending all day typing up a storm, it can be easy to forget to cross your t’s and dot your i’s. But being too informal with grammar and spelling can leave a bad first impression on your online network. Whether you’re posting in a Facebook group, leaving comments, or sending out emails, be sure to follow good grammar, spelling, and punctuation rules to appear professional. If spelling and grammar isn’t your thing, have another set of eyes proofread your content before sending it out to catch any big mistakes, broken links, or other errors in your content.
Network on social media
When networking online, having a social presence isn’t an option, it’s a necessity. Make sure you’re set up on LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook so you can connect digitally with your new coursemates. Ensure you have a clear bio that conveys who you are and what you do, along with a recognizable, recent photo.
Network in person, if possible
Once you’ve connected digitally, propose meeting up in person to further establish your relationship and get to know one another on a deeper level. Networking or other business related events are the perfect avenues to meet your contacts in the real world. Once you get to know them well, suggest grabbing a coffee or going on a hike to start mixing fun with business.
If you can’t meet in person, turn to Zoom. Seeing your new contact face-to-face is necessary in order to get to know them a bit better. Although in person is best, Zoom does have the added benefit of deepening relationships without travel expenses or a big time commitment.
Follow up and stay in touch
Once you’ve established a network that’s full of people you admire and trust, follow up! Continuously check in, share industry news, and invite them to relevant events. Keep a notepad of projects your network is working on, or milestone dates. Send them a message on those dates to let them know you’re rooting for them. Nurture these relationships so they don’t turn back into strangers.
Online courses are full of interesting people with similar goals to yours, so don’t let the opportunity to network go to waste! Following the above tips will help you establish meaningful connections and build relationships, whether you’re looking for new friends, business advice, or potential mentors.