Updated: Dec 3, 2020
As much as I love a good reason to suit up, there’s always one task that makes me want to take five more minutes to stare at my feet: networking. It was already stressful – making sure to nod enough, but not too much, finding the right balance of eye contact, not acting like a weirdo when you meet cool people (I once met my dream work team and froze in my spot – not great 😬). Just as I started to figure it out, COVID comes along and forces me to figure it out again.
As if this sh*t was already hard enough.
Despite housemates running in the background, spotty internet connections, and never figuring out how to extend the time on a Zoom conference (without paying, of course), there is a bright side. We put together these virtual networking "hacks" to help make talking to strangers who could potentially hold your future in their hands not only less daunting but actually kind of fun. Don't believe me? Let's dive in.
But Before You Start...
Give your LinkedIn and resume a facelift.
No one knows when social distancing will become obsolete. So – for now – all your first impressions will be online. You can’t dress to impress, so write to entice. Gas yourself up (humbly), give your profile a glow-up (make it aesthetically pleasing, this holds more weight than you'd think), and make sure your network knows you're an active participant in your career. It’s also a good time to spruce up your (virtual) elevator pitch. Memorize it. Why? Because you want to make sure the way you share your story is consistent. For some help on this, check out marketing expert Sydney Stern Miller's articles that help you do exactly this.
Make a bookable schedule.
Mixmax, Calendly, You Can Book Me. Ever heard of them? If you haven’t, they’re online booking apps – super helpful and handy. Instead of spending hours (or days) trying to find a time that works for everyone, these apps speed things up by allowing you to set the time you’re available. People can then pick a time slot that works for them based on your availability. No more back and forth, awkward emails. Even cooler? They can sync with your Google Calendar and sometimes Zoom, too.
Note: If you're requesting a meeting with someone, you send the calendar invite – not them. You're requesting their time, so make it EZ peasy.
Side effect: It makes you look crazy prepared and eases stress for everyone. Also, you can name the event something cute like a “Virtual Coffee Chat” to make things seem more casual and less intimidating (mostly for me).
Try making [virtual] business cards.
Unfortunately, your perfectly-designed business cards from Moo – with the matte finish you took hours to settle on – are going to have to sit collecting dust for a little longer. In this digital age, of course, there’s an app making things more convenient. Introducing: [Hi]Hello – a virtual business card app. It works just like any business card – put in all your basic contact information and BOOM, you’re done. The app allows you to create multiple business cards for any occasion and all you have to do is email or text the link to whoever you want.
Get Yourself Out There
Don’t know where to start? Attend virtual conferences.
In-person conferences are intimidating, but now, you’re watching from the comfort of your own home and you don’t have to worry about interacting with other people unless you choose to. Most of these conferences have Slack channels made specifically for dropping an intro. Remember that virtual business card? Drop it in with your elevator pitch. Reach out to people who do the same. No more awkward, sweaty handshakes! And if it nothing else comes out of it, at least you got to learn something new.
Just slide into their DMs.
After you’ve shamelessly stalked the network connection of your dreams, it’s time to take the jump. Life's full of risk, right? And in the grand scheme of things, this is a pretty minimal risk. I look at it this way – the worst that happens is nothing. You're no better or worse off than you were before, and if you take the risk, at least there's a chance it'll work out. Just shoot your soon-to-be connection a cold email/InMail and introduce yourself. Remember to keep it professional, and to give them context as to how you came across their profile and why you’re interested in chatting. Ask the questions you really want answered. It's far less intimidating than doing it in person.
Take It Easy On Yourself
It’s easy – fundamentally human, even – to overthink, but you have to give yourself a break. Believe me, I do literally every minute of my life. Whether it’s your first time or 50th time, we’re in, as they say, unprecedented territory. We’re bound to mess up. Just remember:
You have the comfort of your own home. You don’t need to an escape plan or to Irish Goodbye. Make yourself comfortable, but keep it professional.
You have nothing to lose. The worst that can happen is they say 'no,' or ghost you, and that's still better than not doing it in the first place. You did something for yourself, and that’s more than enough.
You’re working on your 2.0. You're focused on bettering yourself, no matter how big or small. It takes time. Be patient. Every bit matters.
And if you need a little guidance or assurance, we're always here to boost you up. Just give a holla at firstname.lastname@example.org. 📣