Have you ever wondered how to network authentically? 

Networking is an art that can be achieved by people at any stage of their career, but doing it well isn’t always easy.  

Being in a room of strangers and starting a conversation can be nerve-wracking, even for extroverts. 

But with a little practice, anyone can hone this skill and use it to their advantage. Here are some tips to help you on your way. 

How to Network Online 

In these days of social distancing, it’s more important than ever to learn tools and strategies for effective online networking. 

You’re probably already doing this to some extent, but how can you bump it up a notch? Well, this depends on your industry and focus.

But here are a few suggestions: 

  • Engage in relevant groups on LinkedIn 
  • Use social media hashtags to find others in your field 
  • Support others who do something similar to you

Staying consistent, posting quality information, and engaging with relevant connections is really the key to getting noticed in an online context. 

Be Memorable 

Anyone can write a note or a cover letter and try to attract a hiring manager. But what’s more impactful is doing something unique and memorable which shows off your skills and personality. 

For instance: 

  • Using something other than a business card at a networking event 
  • Sharing information about how you solved a problem 
  • Sending a quick message suggesting a collaboration 
  • Ask for an informational interview 

Using a little bit of innovation and creativity when you catch people’s attention doesn’t need to take too much time, but it can make a big impact down the line. 

Make an Offer 

When you approach people you don’t know, it’s always a good idea to ask and offer, rather than talking about you and what you want. 

You might just be the most talented person in the room (or Zoom call) but it’s important to leave your personal agenda behind. 

Be curious and friendly without promoting yourself too much at the outset. Once you are comfortable with a person, let the other person guide the conversation towards your work experience. 

Make sure that the other person knows exactly what you can bring to the table, and be as specific as possible. 

Follow Up

If you meet someone at an event or in some other context and you say you’ll get in touch, be sure to follow through with this as soon as possible. Take the time to pay attention and they will appreciate the fact that you made the effort. 

You can also follow on social media, send them a second note at some point later if you have something new to discuss, or set a reminder for yourself to reach out to them periodically. 

Whether a person is marketing their skills or business, it usually starts with small talk about a personal topic. 

Personal Branding 

At any moment, someone might ask to see your portfolio to make an immediate decision at an event. 

Make sure that you have your personal branding materials such as website, CV or portfolio on-hand and updated. Links and other information should appear on your business card. 

Don’t waste your time or resources trying to chat with people who seem uninterested, or hand out your business cards to everyone, though — the interest should go both ways. 

Work the Room (Or the Zoom Call) 

If you don’t know the people in the room, look for a reason to approach them. 

If you notice friends at the event after the conversation ends respectfully step away and meet new people in the room.

If you can build the confidence to approach the public speakers on stage, you can learn to add to personal learning by speaking with a successful person. 

Discuss Your Passions 

When people ask the question “tell me about yourself” (and they will), it’s important to frame this in such a way that you talk about the real you. Yes, you can mention education and career goals, but an even better strategy is to frame this around what you genuinely like (or love) to do. 

You may also want to tie these goals into more meaningful, bigger picture causes, like: 

  • Supporting environmentally-friendly initiatives 
  • Contributing to a charity 
  • Educating youth
  • Helping new immigrants learn a language 

Think about ways to get deeper into discussions about bigger issues to share what you care about, instead of just discussing how you make money.  

Never Stop Practicing 

You can use these strategies all the time to engage with others — the more you do it, the more natural it will feel. 

Success will look different for everyone, so don’t be afraid to try different strategies. 

Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, making people feel important and sharing your own talents in a relevant context will help you connect with people at all kinds of events. 

While networking can be achieved with personality and professionalism, building a lasting and authentic relationship is really the goal here. 

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