There is something special about the power of technology and how we build relationships. With a click of a button, we can reach people globally who have the same interests and expertise. We can even get access to career opportunities that aren’t always provided to us locally or within social communities.
Many of us use social media, mobile apps and other tools to interact with others—but how are we using these “everything” systems to be intentional about building a virtual network that can lead to future success in our careers? Here are three tips to elevate your virtual networking skills and create opportunities for your future.
Read more: 10 Tips to Network Like a Pro
Build a professional following on social media
Social media can be the bridge that helps you establish industry authority and career opportunities if done right. It all starts with who you follow and who follows you. To craft a great professional brand identity on social media, start with your profile bio and picture.
Your bio should include a reference to your industry with hashtags to make your profile easier to find when people browse content by hashtag. From there, start following industry leaders, peers and media professionals who write about your industry. Now that your bio references your industry, it's likely you’ll start to gain relevant followers.
You can start to craft an industry-specific feed that allows you to engage with and share your insights and opinions about your profession. For each article you share, add your takeaways from the piece to encourage dialogue with people you follow. The more engagement you create around your industry online, the more you can establish authority. Recruiters, event organizers and journalists may start to find you for opportunities.
Send check-in emails to keep relationships fresh
Email is a great way to maintain business relationships. Checking in with your contacts frequently helps them stay updated on your career progress, goals and needs. Your contacts can be former supervisors, industry peers you met during in-person or online events, former coworkers, hiring managers who wanted to stay connected or people who have shared their platform with you.
By doing quarterly check-ins, your network will feel connected to your growth and may be more willing to assist you in times when you may need a favor or advice.
Things to remember when sending check-in emails
1. Start the check-in process immediately
Start checking in via email when you meet someone who gives you a business card or tells you to email them or stay in touch. Doing so signals that they are interested in building a relationship and permits you to check in with them regularly.
2. Filter by responsiveness
Filter out who is committed to receiving your updates by identifying who is and isn’t responsive to your first email.
3. Track your activity
Keep track of your check-ins by creating an excel sheet and listing dates in which you last check-in.
4. Be engaged
Make sure your emails recap what you’ve been up to, offer a sentence about what you’ve seen your contact do in their career, and lastly, give action on how you can be of service.
5. Request a potential call or video chat
If you’ve identified a contact whose career is of particular interest to you or might have relevant job opportunities, ask them if they’d be willing to take a phone call or video chat with you to learn more. Come prepared with informational interview questions and updates about your current career and what you’re looking for.
Find relevant online communities for professional support
If you are looking for a virtual group of people who have similar interests, there is more than likely an online community for it. Online communities are a great way to network, source opportunities, exchange insight and find support.
Even some of your favorite career-based independent or industry-specific organizations may have free or paid membership platforms that grant you access to these private communities. It’s in these spaces where you can be candid about your needs, share your wins and receive thoughtful feedback. The more you engage and create relationships in relevant online communities, the more people will champion your career journey.
Things to remember when joining online communities
1. Be professional, up-to-date and relevant
Navigate this space just like you would on your social media platforms. Keep your content up-to-date, professional and relevant to the community.
2. Introduce yourself to the community
When you join, you should always introduce yourself and include a brief statement about who you are, what you do, your career goals and what you hope to gain from the community.
3. Initiate and maintain alliances
Members with similar backgrounds are likely to be the first to reach out be responsive and maintain those connections for future opportunities.