Networking is scary. Add COVID to the mix and you are forced to stare into your computer screen to find a connection with another human being. Not so easy cracking jokes when the internet is bad, and just when you get to the punchline, you freeze on the screen. Resulting in, clicking your refresh button repeatedly. Let’s be honest: it sucks.
This whole virtual connection is not going away. Quite the opposite really… it’s only just begun. The new era of virtual working is on the rise with or without COVID. People want freedom. They want flexibility. They want options to earn the high wages from living in a city, but actually live 80% of their time in the countryside. Hence, the virtual world is going to continue to be ‘a thing’ whether you are a fan or not. And businesses are not fighting that quite as enthusiastically you'd think. A company saves on office space. Bosses doesn't have to deal with its workers being late because of traffic or a cancelled train. So this virtual working, it's here to stay.
So we should probably learn to live with it and learn the appropriate etiquette that gives us the confidence to thrive in this new world. Here are a few tips & tricks to think about when you are networking in a virtual setting:
- Research the person you are meeting with by reviewing their LinkedIn and company. Write down 5-10 questions in advance and lay them out in front of you before you join the session. Why do you want to network with them? What are you hoping to learn or gain from this conversation? Sometimes conversations don’t flow as naturally as you would like in a virtual world. Preparing a few questions allows you to draw on your notes throughout your conversation and keep the content flowing in the direction you would like.
- TEST the TECH. Even with a tech background, I often have difficulties with certain platforms. Download the preferred platform of this individual, test it and make sure you are able to connect properly. I cannot stress this enough! Make sure to hop on a few minutes early and be ready to go! The WORSE is when you are hoping to speak with someone and can’t get into the platform/virtual room. Avoid this by testing the technology ahead of time and confidently arriving ahead of schedule to your networking session.
- Your background. Anything that is visible when you are on screen is part of your brand now. This is a chance for you to put your best foot forward and completely in your control. What can others see when they join you on screen? Are you in a dark room with boxes around you? Or are you sitting near your unmade bed? How is the lighting? Are there shadows on your face? All of these questions need to be thought through as you decide how you want your brand to portray through that computer screen of yours.
- Tip: Make sure to have the light ON, and/or a lamp behind your computer aimed to light your face when on screen. Simple background with a photo or two is ideal – they can see your wall colour and a portrait. This can be a good ice breaker!
- Your personality. It's good to be open and honest about yourself if only because sooner or later people will find it all out anyway. And likely sooner. So control the narrative by being real. Remember at the end of the day we are all just people and doing the best we can with what we got, so forgive others if they're not at their most charming best. And don't forget that a smile goes a long way on and off the screen.
Research. Test the tech. Choose your screen background. Be the person you want others to be with you. So you're putting your best foot forward as you kick-off your networking journey.
Check out our #moustacheswithjobs video series on social media to get some insightful tips from expereinced professionals, and also have a look on Trailhead, Salesforce's free online learning platform, to browse through all the different jobs, descriptions and even average salary ranges! You can also read my previous blog How to Decide Your Career Vision and Direction.