Professional networking can be intimidating, whether you’re meeting new people in-person or remotely. Between the pandemic and the shift to online learning over the past year, things felt even more daunting as many of us had to learn how to keep networking virtually. Building a professional network is essential in laying the foundation for a successful career, but how can you grow your networking skills when you’re working from home or still waiting to return to the office?
After graduating from college last May during the pandemic, I spent months scheduling informational phone calls with college alumni, family friends, and even a few strangers — all from the comfort of my bedroom. Whether you’re applying for an internship, looking for your first post-grad job, or making a career change, having a professional network will improve your chances of finding work — even when the job market is tough. Here are five tips to step up your networking game when you’re working from home (or your couch…we won’t judge).
- Research, research, research
We’ve heard the saying “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” a million times when it comes to landing a job. But what if you don’t know who you need to know? Start with the people you admire, and conduct some online research to figure out how to connect.
For example, Fairley Lloyd, Associate Writer at nCino, Inc., researches writers who work for her favorite magazines on LinkedIn. In the past, she has found this to be a helpful tactic in growing her network, even from home. “I found people who wrote for them and had similar interests to me, then sent them a connection request and a short message asking them about their career,” Fairley tells Her Campus. Similarly, whenever I listen to a great podcast or read an article I enjoy, I look up the writer and send them a message — it can be a great way to start the networking process and establish a point of connection.
Don’t know how to start a conversation? Begin by introducing yourself and sharing your interest in their career, like Fairley did. Keep the message short and sweet! End each message by asking if the contact is open for a quick 15-minute conversation. These small communications can be more important than you think, and might even lead to future internship or job opportunities.
- Use LinkedIn to your advantage
LinkedIn is essential to the remote job hunt. According to Carson Kohler at TopResume, LinkedIn hosts more than 600 million professional profiles — that’s right, 600 million professionals who can potentially help you get a job. Chances are, the HR manager you want to contact (or the college alumni who work in your field) will be on LinkedIn. LinkedIn also hosts different groups you can join, from universities to organizations.
According to Debra Rodenbaugh-Schaub, a career consultant for Kansas University, LinkedIn is also a great way to improve your “online visibility.” Consider LinkedIn the Facebook of job hunting. Set up a profile you want hiring managers to see, and don’t hesitate to use the platform to expand your professional connections. You can also set up a profile on Generation Hired, AKA Her Campus Media’s virtual career center where you can get connected with dream jobs and attend intimate workshops with some of your dream bosses!
- Master the art of the cold email
There have been numerous occasions on my networking journey where I’ve scheduled a call with a professional with whom I had no connection. That’s right, no family friends in common and no university connection, just me and admiration for their career. While networking from home, it’s important to take risks by sending a cold email and asking for an informational phone call. Mollie Guerrero, Influencer Marketer, and Community Coordinator at Her Campus, cold emails professionals who work in a role she’d like to apply to in the future. “Send them a message and express your interest,” Mollie recommends.
It’s important to keep your message brief and tailored to the specific person. Lara Von Linsowe-Wilson, Influencer Marketing and Community Manager at Her Campus Media, recommends starting small. “We’re all experiencing a bit of digital fatigue right now,” Lara says, “but at the same time, we’re all still searching for ways to stay connected. Think of it like speed dating or how you might meet someone at an in-person event — keep things light and quick.” When it comes to digital networking, playing the long game is essential. Start with an email, then a 15-minute phone call, then build your connection from there.
- Keep your contacts updated
You sent the cold email and completed the informational phone call, so now what? You have a connection, and now it’s time to nurture that relationship. Read something on the news that may interest your contact? Send it to them! Do something cool professionally? Drop them an email or post it on your LinkedIn. If it feels right, schedule a regular check-in with your professional contact. All of these experiences will strengthen your professional relationship. Meanwhile, monitor their company’s page. If you navigate the relationship right, you can ask your contact for a job referral.
- Treat rejection as an opportunity
Job rejections can be soul-crushing, but they can also be an opportunity. Career coach and TikToker Jonathan Javier turned his job rejection at Goldman Sachs into an interview after requesting to apply to another position within the company. “Always ask for help…that’s how I got it,” he says.
After seeing Jonathan’s TikTok I was floored, and more than a little inspired to try it myself! When I was rejected from a job after the second round of interviews, I requested feedback and then asked the hiring manager to put me in touch with a sister company that aligned closer to my professional goals. Any professional interaction you have, whether it’s a casual conversation with a family friend or a job rejection, could result in another career connection.
Networking may have changed with the pandemic, but it’s still all about establishing authentic relationships. Whether you’re taking classes remotely this semester, working entirely remote, or simply wanting to find connections online in your spare time, do your research and just be you! With a little luck and consistent wifi, you’ll be one step closer to your dream career.
Debra Rodenbaugh-Schaub, Career Consultant at Kansas University
Mollie Guerrero, Junior Associate, Influencer Marketing & Community at Her Campus
Lara Von Linsowe-Wilson, Influencer Marketing and Community Manager at Her Campus Media
Fairley Lloyd, Associate Writer at nCino, Inc.