Networking Advice for the Digital Age
There are numerous ways to look for a job in 2019, including contacting an employment agency, browsing online job banks, and scrolling endlessly through LinkedIn. But no matter how hard you look, securing the job you want will be difficult without the right connections.
That’s where networking comes in. Networking is essential to career development. It’s through networking that professionals build relationships, identify opportunities, and position themselves for success in their fields. And yet, networking in its traditional form – shaking hands, distributing business cards, information sessions over coffee – is not for everyone. Many people in today’s job market are more comfortable reaching out over email or LinkedIn than introducing themselves in person to a near-stranger.
Luckily, networking in 2019 is less intimidating than in the past. Today, there are numerous ways to make new connections, stay in touch with colleagues, and establish a name for yourself in your industry. So, what does effective modern networking look like?
Networking Tips for the Digital Age
There is no single correct approach to networking. Every person should set their own goals, develop their own plan, and proceed in a manner they feel comfortable with. Confidence is key: you want to present yourself as a professional and communicate through a medium you’re comfortable with.
Social media is a great place for job seekers to develop relationships. Facebook, LinkedIn, and even Reddit are home to thriving communities of professionals in a multitude of fields. Join these groups to learn more about your industry, identify thought leaders, and stay up to date with news and events. As you absorb information and develop a feel for the group, be sure to contribute your own thoughts and opinions to the conversation. Doing so will help you create a name for yourself.
Social media is also useful for maintaining your existing community. Networking is an ongoing process – it takes time to foster meaningful relationships and effort to perpetuate them. Liking or commenting on a former colleague’s Facebook status will ensure that you’re not far from their mind. If you have an especially large professional network, consider interacting with it based on a ‘tier’ system: maintain close ties with your most important industry contacts and looser ties with other acquaintances. This might involve commenting on posts for the top tier and liking posts for the lower ones.
Ideally, social media networking should be a gateway to more traditional networking. As you familiarize yourself with key players in your industry, you may become more comfortable with the idea of face-to-face networking. Think of your contributions to online industry groups as practice for the real thing.
When you’re ready to graduate to in-person networking, remember that many of the same rules apply. Don’t rush the process: if you’re attending a networking event, study the speaker list and guest list (if available) and craft a strategy. Decide what you want to get out of the event: is your goal to make small talk and practice your networking skills, or do you want to make a meaningful connection with a particular guest?
Either way, focus on building a rapport with attendees. Present yourself as you would during a job interview or a meeting with an employment agency. Show some personality – be courteous and informative. Think about the online conversations you’ve had with members of the community, or the connection requests you’ve sent on LinkedIn. These are the foundations that should anchor your in-person networking approach.
As anyone who works at an employment agency can attest, in-person and online networking go hand-in-hand. The connections you form in person can be nurtured and maintained online, and digital interactions can help you become more comfortable with networking at events and conferences. The key to networking success is to find the balance that works for you. Set a goal, choose an approach, and network your way to the top.
Image credit: Ivan Panasjuk (EU2017EE)/Wikimedia Commons
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