How to Adjust Your Networking Skills for the New Normal
As millions of Americans suddenly enter the job market, candidates will need to rely on strong professional networks to help find work.
The question is — how exactly should you develop your network in the “new normal” of digital-first business communication?
We asked New York-based Aerotek Account Recruiting Manager Rita Yong for digital networking advice. She interacts with dozens of job seekers and multiple employers every day through digital communication channels.
Rita advocates for a centered approach to networking, with the following in mind:
Treat your LinkedIn profile as your main brand page
In the pre-digital era, networking was accomplished in-person, with people exchanging business cards and handshakes at live events.
These days, your LinkedIn profile is your first impression, your business card and your handshake all rolled into one. So it needs to be impeccable in the same way you might want to iron your clothes before a big meeting.
For specific tips, check out How to Build a LinkedIn Profile That Gets You Noticed.
The most important thing to keep in mind, according to Rita, is to update your profile and your resume to reflect your current situation accurately.
“Make sure your most recent experience is put together well, and shore up details like location, profile picture, resume, current status and side projects,” says Rita. “The more information your profile has, the better.”
If you were furloughed in the aftermath of COVID-19, don't worry about sending the wrong signals when you are looking for a new position. Let it be known. Flag your public profile as “actively seeking” for added visibility. As explored in a previous piece on job seeking while furloughed, your employer will understand.
Use LinkedIn in new ways
If you’ve been furloughed recently, or are otherwise seeking a job for the first time in a while, you may need to be reminded that it’s now okay to broadcast your availability far and wide.
Go ahead and use LinkedIn to its fullest extent.
Try writing and posting a LinkedIn blog with your opinions about a particular trend in your industry. List your side-project or freelance experience along with your “day job” resume. Connect with recruiters.
Just make sure you’re always available and courteous. “Respond to messages and get back to everybody who contacts you,” says Rita. “And connect with as many people as possible — because anybody can alert you to that next opportunity.”
Expand to other digital channels and communities
While LinkedIn is the center of your digital networking activity, it’s not the only place you can go to build new contacts. Once you develop your main profile as a professional “business card,” you can extend your network in any number of digital spaces.
Look into Groups on Facebook and other apps — and not just based on career-related topics. Alumni clubs, hobby groups and civic associations can all be helpful. If you don’t see anything specific to your situation or interests, start one and promote it to new potential community members across your social media and friend networks.
You can also explore other outlets with digital community features, or even old group text messages. Anywhere you can copy and paste your LinkedIn profile is a good place to try.
“I recommend joining multiple groups,” says Rita, “and just being more involved with every community that interests you. A lot of the time, there will be mentions that some places are hiring.”
No matter where you choose to engage, participate often while always maintaining a veneer of professionalism. The more visible you are, the better.
Humanize the process however you can
As you expand your network, remember that almost everybody else in your situation is also working with digital tools. It’s worth taking a few extra steps to set yourself apart.
To avoid becoming just another name through digital communication channels, it’s important to show your face. Update a profile picture in the user settings of every application you use — not just LinkedIn, but also email, social media, and especially any video chat applications you’re using.
Turn your camera on for any video conferences (yes, this means you’ll have to be presentable too).
And if you reach out to a friend for an introduction to a new contact, you may as well request a three way video call to formalize the meeting.
In general, the best way to act while networking digitally is to treat everybody with the same courtesy you’d expect through a face-to-face meeting. For example, respond to every message you get in the same way you would answer a friendly knock on your door.
As Rita says, “Any opportunity to humanize the process will work out better.”
You might not be able to meet in person in our “new normal” of digital contact, but do your best to pay attention to detail, make the new equivalent of eye contact, and smile.
Looking for your next digital networking resource? Consult our job board to find opportunities near you, connect and explore based on what you see.