Aug 31, 2020 | Clare Chiappetta, MA, HRCI Contributing Writer
Is Virtual Networking Effective?
In-person conferences and other professional events have been disrupted, but that does not mean your networking has to come to a halt.
Virtual networking can help you fill in the gaps. “You’ve got to do it to build your career,” says Alisa Cohn, an executive coach who works with HR professionals. “You must adapt your networking processes.”
Virtual networking can be powerful for HR professionals, experts say. Here’s how to make virtual networking part of your HR professional development.
Look and Feel Your Best
Dress codes may have relaxed while we are working remotely, but you should continue to wear your professional attire when attending a virtual networking event. Keep a jacket or sweater nearby in case the group turns out to be more formal than you anticipated.
Create a quiet space in your home to conduct virtual meetings. This will allow you to fully engage in the conversation and develop connections with minimal distractions.
Build Connections Through Shared Interests
Virtual meetups and summits for HR professionals have proliferated during the pandemic, creating opportunities to make new connections while earning your recertification credits.
Many have incorporated interactive elements, such as chat rooms and breakout sessions with smaller groups, providing the opportunity to network with your peers virtually.
After you attend a virtual event, reach out to your fellow attendees. “Be bold about reaching out to people you don’t know,” Cohn says. LinkedIn is excellent for this type of follow-up. Invite people to connect with you afterward and engage with their content.
“Create an organic space for genuine connection and camaraderie,” says John O’Connor, CEO at CareerPro Inc. Tag two or three connections interested in the topic, and ask questions to keep the conversation going. Positive interactions are the best way to generate organic relationships. They support a more genuine, reciprocal connection.
Nurture Reciprocal Relationships
Many of the rules of good networking still apply at virtual events. For example, while you should come prepared with a succinct introduction of your background, interests and goals, you’ll want to focus most of your energy on asking your fellow participants questions to build reciprocal relationships.
If you know in advance who is attending the virtual event, spend time on LinkedIn to learn about their professional experiences. You can then tailor your questions to what you’ve learned. “Include that into your conversation, and you’ll be looked at as a serious, interesting person,” O’Connor says.
It’s never wrong to send a follow-up message thanking the individual for their time. “The art of networking is really thoughtful follow-up,” O’Connor says. “Relationships benefit you over time.”
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