Virtual Networking Tips from a Career Coach

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Maybe you love networking in person, but struggle to master online networking. Or maybe you hate networking and just don’t feel like you’re any good at it. Either way, you’ll find this blog post with virtual networking tips helpful.

About one year ago, I relaunched my blog (The Unconventional Traveler) because I had some extra time and new ideas. Six months later, it morphed into what it is today — a career blog for recent college graduates. As a result of the direction of my blog, I started looking into recruiting positions. But before I started applying to jobs, I wanted to learn more about the day-to-day of a recruiter. This is how I met Brad, a former recruiter and current Career Coach at General Assembly (an Education Tech company based in LA).

When I asked him how he got into recruiting, he started with, “In college, I loved networking and going to networking events.” This was the first time I heard someone share such a genuine and positive sentiment about networking. So the fresh-out-of-college-me who never understood how to properly network I had to hear more. Keep reading to find out Brad’s virtual networking tips.

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What do you love about networking?

Once you get over the hump of networking being a “job” and just being able to get to know people, it’s really just a fun chance to meet new potential friends and learn about new experiences.

It takes work to go into each networking event with a blank slate, but if you can go in ready to learn and absorb everything around you, you’ll both learn new things, and develop genuine interpersonal relationships.

The knowledge you learn isn’t just about an industry or topic, it’s also about human experiences and interaction. At the end of the event, I always have a new story I can take away and reflect on myself, or share with others.

Do you feel like there is a difference between networking in-person and networking online?

Yes and no — in terms of the goal, it’s largely the same, but in terms of the method, it is, of course, very different.
I’ll always source Adam Grant’s “Give and Take” as my main guide to networking — in the end, I want to do my part in helping people. This should be the end goal whether networking on or offline.

However, in in-person networking scenarios, the attention of others is focused on a single moment, whereas online it feels like you have to compete with pop-up ads for others’ attention.

I think we get distracted by the millions of people in our industries that we could connect with. And I think that if we aren’t casting our net wide, we’re missing opportunities. But in reality, if you approach a smaller set of people, invest in getting to know them (via their online posts, websites, contributions, etc.) we can craft personalized and meaningful messages that outshine pop-up ads every time.

Which do you prefer (in-person or virtual networking) and why?

It depends on the goal, but I really enjoy online networking because it does allow me to meet professionals with niche interests rather easily. Through some careful searching, I can find the other professionals who are also interested in a certain subset of volunteer work that I can collaborate with them on, or I can find people that have made career changes similar to my clients, making my work much more impactful.

What are your favorite websites to network with others? And why?

LinkedIn, Slack, Discord, the BuiltIn series of websites, and more recently Medium.

LinkedIn, Slack, Discord, and Medium all make it very easy to actually start conversations with people. Through some careful digging, you can get involved with awesome groups of people having positive conversations about what matters most to you.

BuildIn websites make it easy to get involved in the local tech landscape because they usually share very accessible networking events with friendly people and groups.

What are your top 5 virtual networking tips?

1. Do your homework

If someone has posted any content online, and you find it interesting, ingest it, and ask them about it, they will be much more likely to respond to your messages. Flattery goes a long way, but don’t be nice just for the sake of it — be genuine, and it will go a lot further.

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2. Take the conversation offline as soon as you can

Phone calls do wonders when building a rapport with a stranger. In a post-COVID world, take them out to coffee or lunch. Invest your time genuinely into people, and they will invest back into you.

3. Produce content yourself

Make yourself heard, and make it easier for people to hear you. Just as you want to be finding people to talk to, you want it to be easy for people to find you too. If you publish content, people are more likely to reach out to you, making your job even easier.

4. Participate online

Comment and respond to other people’s content. Sometimes this can be a deep response, sometimes this can be a simple “Great job!” but either way it will demonstrate your engagement (and get people to notice you more) which again will make your job reaching out to others easier.

I recently received a cold email from a salesperson I see often on LinkedIn. I wasn’t interested in the product, but because I “knew” the person through their online activity, I did reach back out and offered to help connect them with others if the opportunity arose.

5. Rejection isn’t personal

The first few times you’re ghosted or ignored can be tough, but the next few become easier. See every outreach you make as an opportunity to succeed rather than a chance to fail. Sure, someone might not get back to you, but what if they do? Focus on the what if, and it will guide you forward.

Do you have any favorite resources on networking that people could check out if they’d like to learn more?

As mentioned before, I’ll always recommend Adam Grant’s Give and Take. This is a fantastic book centered around involving other people in your work in a genuine manner that makes everyone involved better.

For people looking to get in more practice networking, I highly recommend starting in a domain you know well, even if it isn’t “professional.”

  1. Set a goal to have conversations and meet people somewhere you feel more confident.
    • For example, find a group involved with your favorite hobby, sport, activity, etc., and begin practicing there.
    • This way, you can take the path of least resistance.
  2. Once you are comfortable talking with people about things you know well, start expanding to topics you want to learn about.

In a short time, you’ll find yourself able to network with people regardless of the topic.

Bradford Smith is a Career Coach on the Live Online Outcomes Team at General Assembly, supporting career changers in the pursuit of technology roles. Located in Portland, Maine, he’s always open to having conversations with aspiring career changers and coaches who want to talk about the industry! Find him on Linkedin.

Want to start a career in marketing, but don't know how to get there?

Get the exact steps you need to take with the FREE Career Roadmap.

Want to start a career in marketing, but don't know how to get there?

Get the exact steps you need to take with the FREE Career Roadmap.