In 2021, networking will look different, but it is not going anywhere. Learn to do it effectively online.
Remember networking is not about collecting names, email addresses, and references. Networking is about building relationships. 2021 might still be a challenging year to attend face-to-face events. Though skipping on the opportunity to network and expand your network this year is missing out on growing your career. You are behind the wheel of your career, regardless of your positions as an employee or business owner, or entrepreneur. You might be great at your craft, your skills or ideas might be amazing though if you aren’t making new connections and expanding your connections, you will son spin your wheel and feel alone in your effort.
So here are six essential actions and tactics you can use to continue networking smartly and wisely in 2021:
1. Your LinkedIn
Profile should look like a Rolls-Royce. Yes, not like an old Volvo, forgotten in the garage. It should like you care about it and feed it regularly. You may or not decide to invest in the premium membership of the platform, though the truth is that whoever is not present and active in LinkedIn in 2021 is missing out. It hosts more than 600 million professional profiles, which means nearly an unlimited supply of network connections and job opportunities. From seeking a new job to maintaining your personal brand, LinkedIn is an important part of being a full-fledged professional in any industry these days.
2. Attend interesting online events
This new setting in online conferences and meetings can even remove some of the anxiety that many people experience during in-person networking events. You still want to establish meaningful conversations and genuine connections online. Using powerful open ended questions (why, how, where, who, etc). Use your cam, microphone, be as engaged and interested in meeting people as you can be in other settings. It is possible and effective.
3. Being a good listener can be your online superpower in 2021
While the “You are muted” will still be the most common phrase in 2021 during online meetings, be the one person who can sincerely listen to understand. Most people listen to prepare their answer. Be an exceptionally good listener. This skill is underrated online and those who master this in 2021 will build empathetic conversations, will make others feel at ease, build trust (which is more challenging online), and ultimately will be more effective networkers to add value even in short online interactions.
4. Master the platforms
Once you understand that beyond the face-to-face format, you can also establish positive and meaningful connections online, you can start mastering the different platforms and stop resisting the fact that “you can’t meet people” (which is the most common complaint I hear across the board). Get good at communicating in text, video conferences, telephone calls, and zoom meetings. Explore social media channels, if you have a message to transmit and share with your network. It is not about becoming a public figure or “influencer”. It is about keeping an eye on the quality of your connections in your network and the value you can add to them.
5. Interview others
Yes, if you ever thought about launching a podcast, a blog, writing a book, or resources online, this is the time. Thought leaders in your field are waiting for a platform to share their views and if you like talking to people and listening actively, do not shy away from interviewing them on those channels. I agree that this leap can involve some tech knowledge or help from professional people who can support you. Though think of it as in investment again in your career and increasing the value you can add to your network.
6. Network during and after Q&As
In the past year alone, I got two projects simply from the mere act of asking an insightful question during conferences. I do not do it with that purpose in mind, though people are interested in connected after a juicy Q&A session. Online the Q&A time has changed a bit. Instead of having to wait for the presentation to be over, in some cases, presenters will reply to questions from the live chat as they're speaking. Pre-recorded events are of course a disadvantage in this sense. I particularly enjoy networking during online sessions when they open the floor to ask anything or make comments, and I also observe/listen carefully for synergy in people’s questions interactions. That can be an opportunity to spot an interesting person in the virtual room and continue the conversation. Remember you are there to build connections and connect/add value.