It’s been over a year of remote working and even if it may not be here to stay, it definitely opened me up to re-evaluating and expanding my approach when it came to networking. Why limit yourself to those in your company, your industry, or your geography? Isn’t this the best time to meet & learn from others across borders while still confined to the boundaries of our homes?
I took the last few months to assess how the pandemic helped me grow my network and meet diverse individuals across the globe to improve my communication skills and develop a deeper understanding of different challenges from different viewpoints.
If you are someone looking to build your network in a remote world or just someone looking to improve your approach, you’ve come to the right place.
1 — Online professional communities are now your best friend
This one is quite straightforward: if you’re looking to network outside your company, build up your presence on websites like LinkedIn, Twitter, Clubhouse, industry-specific Slack groups and more. Leverage the powerful search capabilities of these platforms and find a company, a recruiter or a person and engage with them.
Participate in webinars/online conferences and connect with individuals on those platforms. It’s up to you to ensure you get the most out of these sessions and that should not just stop at the content from the speakers. Don’t be shy when it comes to connecting with an attendee who asked an insightful question or a speaker who left an impression on you. Now you have a point to reference when sending out that connection request.
Check out the following websites/companies to find events that could be of interest to you:
- Webinars: https://elearningindustry.com/webinars
- Webinars: https://www.eventbrite.ca/d/online/webinar/
- Hackathons: https://devpost.com/hackathons
Pro Tip: If you want to go the extra mile, maintain an active presence on these platforms. This has helped me connect with people all over the world on a more meaningful level than just a dormant connection/one-way relationship.
2 — Reach out, Follow up
When connecting with anyone new, always ensure you send a note with the connection request → goes to show you put in the effort of actually learning about them and also gives them a chance to see what you are hoping to gain out of this.
If you want to speak with 3 people, send out requests to 9. Be aware that the response rate is around 30% (at least in my experience). Instead of looking at this as a hurdle, be aware of it and make it work for you.
Most importantly, follow up! Give the person some time (5 days to a week) and send a follow-up message checking in. In my experience this has pushed that 30% response rate up to ~70%. Just like yourself, people are busy and often forget or get distracted. Do not be discouraged.
3 — Ask questions (the right ones)
Walk into the conversation with an objective and the right questions. I like to write down the objective of my chat and list out my questions. I start by introducing myself, explain why I reached out to them in the first place and ask about their experiences & background. From there on, I drive the conversation with questions I have related to that goal.
As a Product Manager, it’s easy for me to put my PM hat on and prioritize my questions based on my goal and the relevant part of my connection’s experience. It does not have to be too extensive, just directed to a specific area.
Be sure to ask if they have any questions for you, since they may be looking to learn something out of the conversation as well, and thank them for their time.
Finally, if you feel a synergy, don’t be afraid to ask if you can reach out again in the future with questions. Just as easily, you have now managed to convert that dormant connection to an active one.
Ready.. Set.. Network!
So go out there and start networking. Keep in mind, it’s not a one-size-fits all and each connection, each platform and each individual is a bit different. As I mentioned before, be aware of these differences and morph your tactic to work for you. If the person you are reaching out to prefers a text conversation over a phone call, list out your questions over an email. If Twitter is the place to be for your industry, get on there and start finding interesting people to follow. The worst that can happen is you try and learn something out of it — and is that really so bad?