Professional networking – the term usually conjures up images of in-person coffee meetings or conferences. Certainly, that was the case for years, but times have changed. Virtual options and schedules are all around us, but one element of networking hasn’t changed: it’s beneficial. Many positive outcomes in my career are a direct result of someone in my network. Whether they brought an opportunity to my attention, shared their knowledge and expertise, made an introduction, or provided a reference – networking with other professionals has made a significant difference in my professional life.
The Impact of Hybrid Work
With so many people working in remote or hybrid arrangements, what does networking look like in today’s market? Building your professional network is still a vital part of your career. If you fail to invest in networking, I am afraid you’re going to miss out. Networking is crucial in doing your job well today, getting opportunities for tomorrow, and developing your career for the future.
For most in the modern workplace, a hybrid approach for a hybrid world has quickly become the new normal—after all, not every meeting or conversation was in-person before the pandemic. But don’t go thinking of virtual networking as a substitute or consolation prize. It has value in of itself.
Building your network online can be incredibly effective when combined with IRL interactions and networking sites. Additionally, it’s important to remind yourself of why we network in the first place, as a recent Forbes article highlighted. We network to do good for others (i.e., clients and colleagues), good for our community (the big picture), and good for ourselves (building our career or business).
Why Network Virtually
Just like in person, if you stand in the corner and don’t talk to anyone, you are not going to make many connections. When people reach out to you on LinkedIn, do you respond? Do you “converse” with people who like or comment on your social network? Actually, you don’t always need a specific reason to reach out to your network. Sometimes, it’s best if people hear from you when you don’t want something from them – building relationships makes a positive impact.
Will this be a time investment? Yes, but if you create habits to check in and respond online, the process becomes efficient, even natural. Use your time and energy wisely. You have a strategy when you go to a conference or industry event, right? You find out who is there that you would like to meet and talk to them if possible. If you hear a great speaker in your industry, you try to tell them so afterward. You can do the same online. Focus your efforts and interact strategically. Through consistent efforts, you demonstrate you’re a person worth connecting with.
I know how important a strong professional network can be to a successful and fulfilling career. I’ve been a beneficiary, and I am committed to helping others in return. I love meeting new people! It enriches my career and brings so much joy to life. I still enjoy and see the value of networking in-person, but I am equally ready to adapt into our new world.
Please, reach out to me if you have further thoughts or questions. If I can help with some information or perspective, I am happy to do so. If you don’t connect with me, please connect with someone. Networking is possible, even in a virtual setting, and it’s more important than ever.
Looking for more industry advice? We’ve already written several columns with practical suggestions that can help you in your career.