Online networking has always been a great way for students to build connections. Given the current quarantine situation, it is even more important to know how to network with others online. If you are lucky, you may even end up with some summer job or internship opportunities if your conversation goes the right way. Networking with professionals can be easy. If you’re new to this world, we can help with that!
Before you start networking, you need to have a professional profile. Otherwise, the people that you try to connect with may be reluctant to reply. They might not know who you are, what you do, or why you are contacting them. By establishing an online presence, you assure them that a) you are a legitimate person and b) you want to connect with them for a specific reason. LinkedIn pretty much has a monopoly on online professional networking. LinkedIn helps people that are looking for connections to build their own networks. You’ll be sure to find plenty of employees from all different types of industries, ready to have a chat with you.
The whole goal of networking is to build and strengthen connections with people (even strangers) who can help to teach each other new things. Whether you are trying to enter into a new industry or move up in your company, you can network professionally. Try searching for people with the same job title, the job title one step above yours, someone with your dream job title, a brand new industry, or something else you’re interested in! You’ll never know what you might find until you start looking.
Professional communication is essential to building your network. The type of language and what you say to each individual may vary, but professional communication should remain fairly consistent through your different conversations.
If you are reaching out to a Director or Executive of a company you are interested in working at, you definitely want to use more formal and professional language. However, if you are trying to connect with someone who went to the same school as you, you might be able to talk to them more informally, since you have something in common!
No matter how the conversation turns out, always make sure to respond as quickly as possible. This applies to emails, online messaging, and even responding to video call invitations. Pay attention to the language you use. You’re not talking to your friends, so there shouldn’t be any slang in whatever you write or say. Remember, these sites are created for the purpose of reaching out to people you only know loosely, if at all! It is more than okay to connect with someone you have never met if you have something to talk about.
Now, you might be wondering what exactly you can talk about. After all, you just met a person online that you have little to no knowledge of and vice versa.
The first thing you should recognize is that you reached out to this person for a reason. Tell them what it is! Not only will it kick off the conversation, but it will also help them understand what the purpose of the conversation might be. From there, you can steer the conversation to what you really wanted to get to, whether that be industry knowledge, job hunting tips, or general life advice.
Try to keep some general questions on-deck that you could ask anyone to keep the conversation going. One great one that always gets the conversation going is “could you tell me about your career path?” This question is great for a variety of reasons. It pushes the conversation in the other party’s direction, and it will likely help you to understand how your career path may be similar, or different. You’ll learn a lot, either way!
No matter which way the conversation goes, always thank the person for taking time out of their day to talk with you. Not only is it polite to do so, but it also shows the other person that you do appreciate what they’ve done for you.