Through the COVID-19 crisis, the traditional methods for making connections with other professionals, such as lunch meetings or attending supply chain events, have gone out the window. Digital networking is the new normal — and absolutely paramount, if you are hoping to find a new job.
On the positive side, your odds of reaching those you are contacting has greatly improved, as people tend to be more accessible when working from home. Still, networking remotely does pose some challenges. Following are seven strategies to help you excel at making meaningful connections from the comfort of your home.
- Set goals. Before you get started, establish your primary goals. Getting a new job and selling a product or service are common objectives, but think about additional benefits to be gained, as well. These might include identifying a new mentor or mentee, solving a complex supply chain problem, or learning something new.
- Leverage LinkedIn. Always personalize your LinkedIn invitations, and send an initial direct message when you invite someone to connect. Keep it short and simple; ideally, five sentences or fewer. Communicate why you are reaching out; your unique value proposition; how you could help the person; and a call to action, such as a question or invitation to speak via phone or video chat. Avoid long messages loaded down with stacks of paragraphs. These rarely lead to further dialogue. LinkedIn is also valuable for messaging. In fact, open rates for notes sent through the platform are significantly higher than emails. After your invitation is accepted, follow it with a direct message, as this can increase your engagement levels.
- Video trumps phone. Instead of setting up the typical networking phone call, aim to schedule a video chat. Video is as close as you get to being with someone in person these days, and it can help you establish a more authentic connection. Zoom has become a very popular tool, along with Microsoft Teams. But don’t overlook Google Meet, which is free with a Gmail account and an excellent option.
- Enhance your online visibility. Attracting other professionals to you is crucial as well, especially if you are job hunting. The first step is making sure your LinkedIn profile is completed and fully optimized. If you need advice on how to do this, check out my ASCM Career Coach webinar at apics.org/careercoach. Next, consider writing articles on LinkedIn, in a blog or a trade magazine — as well as participating in podcasts and speaking engagements. These are great ways to enhance your visibility and showcase your expertise. Lastly, even if your favorite conferences are postponed or canceled, many events have pivoted to digital formats and, therefore, will need virtual presentations.
- Be authentic and empathetic. Under normal circumstances, greeting someone with a simple, “How are you?” is fine. Today, many of us are dealing with additional stresses, ranging from health challenges to being laid off to home-schooling. When reaching out, keep your messages sincere and empathetic. Humanizing your communication in a caring and genuine manner can really make the difference. Think about how you would feel as the recipient of your note, and make adjustments as needed.
- “How can I help?” The best networkers know that networking is all about giving and receiving, with the goal of building mutually beneficial relationships. Write down a list of things you can do to help others, and keep it handy as you initiate contact. You can offer to facilitate introductions to people within your personal network, share a thought-provoking blog post or an article that contains helpful advice, or describe a recent innovation in supply chain. Demonstrate the ways you can add value in every message or conversation.
- Follow up with patience. Underdoing it and overdoing it are both common networking mistakes. Underdoing it refers to making only one attempt to reach someone and, if there’s no immediate response, assuming there’s no interest. Overdoing it is blowing up someone’s inbox or calling them over and over again. Persistence is very important, but be sure to exercise a high degree of patience, knowing that many people are juggling a lot more now than ever before. Spread your follow-ups over several days, keep them short and sincere, and don’t expect anyone to get back to you right away.
To access more career resources, including a webinar and a video from ASCM's Career Coach, Rodney Apple, visit the ASCM Career Transition page.