You might have felt it was hard enough networking to advance when people met in person, but now most networking is virtual.
Here are 5 approaches you can use for networking to advance in a virtual world:
1. Change your mindset to “Help them to Help you”
If you are networking within your company you might be hesitant to reach out to senior leaders and feel that you don’t want to bother them. This approach puts all the power in their court and diminishes the value you bring.
Instead, shift your mindset! Think about the contribution you want to make. Who do you want to help and how? If leaders don’t know about you, you won’t be able to get the support you need to HELP your people!
Share your vision. State how your proposed vision is going to help that leader or decision-maker. Then your mission is aligned with THEIR mission and you’ve just vastly increased their interest in responding to your virtual outreach.
Help them to help you, and get them to see that helping you helps them!
2. Have a REASON for reaching out
You might feel shy about reaching out to senior leaders and people in your network because you ‘have nothing to say’ and don’t want to waste their time. So have a reason to approach senior leaders who are on your stakeholder map.
A great way to come up with a reason to connect with senior leaders is to reflect on the gap between how you are perceived now and how you need to be perceived to get to the next level. You can always initiate some kind of bold project that will help to update the perception of you in the minds of decision-makers. Think of a way you could add value, help fix an issue in your company/industry, or get a leader’s perspective on how to make your function better…
Instead of only reaching out to pick their brain about your career, approach them with this ‘business reason’ to reach out to them.
3. Leverage the interactions you are already having online
Participate actively in calls. Ask good questions or speak up with valuable or insightful comments. Use the chat feature if active.
Be savvy about who the leaders, decision-makers, and influencers are on calls. Follow up with them via Linked in or email thanking them for their insights. Tell them specifically what inspired you and how you will use it in your work. Ask if they would be willing to have a brief coffee with you so you could learn more about what they were sharing.
Be specific in your Ask so they know ahead of time you are a person who is organized and intentional – if they know their advice will be acted upon it will trigger more of their desire to be helpful.
After your follow up thank them for their time and input. Tell them specifically what you implemented, ask if you could follow up with them again once you’ve fully implemented what they’ve suggested. These interactions plant the seed of relationship building and could lead to you eventually asking that person to become a sponsor.
4. Identify Points of Connection When Reaching Out
When reaching out to connect with someone, share a personalized message telling the person why you would like to connect and offer some form of personal connection.
If you haven’t connected with them in a while remember this: relationships aren’t like milk – they don’t have an expiration date!
Ask a mutual connection on Linked In to connect you, or start commenting on your feed so it prompts them to take a look at your profile. Send a connection request with a brief note to deepen the relationship.
5. Get others to want to network with YOU
Building your brand gets you known by other people without you having to reach out to each of them individually. Build your platform and let it do the work for you!.
Take a leadership role in an organization or appear on a panel to strengthen your influence and amplify your voice. Post about it on social media or in your company’s newsletter by sharing your takeaways. These appearances give you ‘free PR’ to build your brand and get noticed.
These are 5 ways to interact meaningfully with others even virtually. Try them out today, because now is your time!