Networking Virtually? Here Are 5 Tips To Stand Out In A Crowded Zoom.

This is a sponsored feature. All opinions are 100% our own.

Written by Giana Darville

Hi! I’m Giana Darville, one of Neutrogena’s Faces of The Future recipients. I’m so excited to be contributing this article to promote Her Campus’s newest platform: Generation Hired, presented by Neutrogena®. The goal of Generation Hired is to fix the recruiting system by connecting candidates with recruiters in a more effective way and to share relatable advice and tips for how to shine as a new candidate.
Making new professional connections can be scary for some (me) and awkward for others (also me). But, being able to do so from the comfort of my bedroom is a tiny perk of one of the most unusual periods of our lives. Whether you’re enrolled at “Zoom University” or have the work-from-home blues, here’s some age-old advice with a pants-optional twist to help shake the isolation and flex your networking muscle in our virtual world.

1. Set the stage 

Before your webcam comes on, try to create an enclosed environment that puts you at ease and looks aesthetically pleasing for your Zoom-mates. Virtual backgrounds are great in a pinch (and sometimes even hyper realistic), but taking the time to create a space that grounds you with good vibes helps build confidence and project professionalism. 

Don’t worry—there’s no need to take on an expensive or intense home makeover! Instead, set aside 30 minutes before your next call to make your bed, light a candle, and find the perfect angle in your space to frame you among your plants, posters and favorite pieces. It may take some time and creativity to figure out the best configuration for you, but an intentionally staged background is a great conversation starter! 

2. Dress for success

At least for now, the days of primping, preening, and picking the perfect business casual lewk for in-person mixers are behind us (moment of silence for the slacks that haven’t seen the light of day since February). But, that doesn’t mean everything is a WFH-casual event. Now is a great time to play with casual and conventionally professional items to create a look that fits the moment. This is when your favorite headband or statement necklace can really have its moment.

And the best way to showcase your perfect ‘fit is with perfect lighting. Consider investing in a ring light, or sit in front of a window or desk lamp that illuminates your face and enhances your video quality. Let your style (literally) shine! And don’t forget to start your day with a morning routine with products that will help you look and feel your best like, Neutrogena® Hydro Boost Extra Dry Water Gel (a personal fave of mine!) and Neutrogena® Hydro Boost Hyaluronic Acid Serum! PSA: the serum instantly hydrates for smooth supple skin all day giving you that extra confidence boost before the meeting.

3. Show up a few minutes early 

Logging into a video conference five minutes early allows for time to iron out technical difficulties and feel out your fellow professionals. Plus, it’ll give you that extra moment for the host to notice you and take note of your promptness and professionalism.

You can spend a few minutes getting comfortable with the platform by identifying the chat function, mute button, and turning on your camera. Then, enjoy the early bird perk of pre-event networking with others as they pop in. You might find a fast friend by quipping about the weather, commenting on their outfit (or background!), or discussing your excitement for a special guest speaker before the main event gets started.

4. Be an active listener

Whether you’re tuning in to a multi-day virtual conference or engaging in a small-scale networking session, take advantage of having your keyboard at the tip of your fingers by taking great notes. (Pro tip: Don’t forget to mute your mic when you’re typing away!) Follow along closely with any presentations, highlighting information in a format that makes the most sense to you. And once the time comes, speak up! One of the best pieces of advice that I’ve ever received is to always ask questions, even if you don’t have any. Just in case your notes don’t spark any pressing queries, have a few questions prepped about the speaker’s background or career choices to help you stand out from the crowd during Q&A.

And as you network, make sure to document your new colleagues’ names and contact information for reference. Ask connection-building questions, listen for notable answers, and be ready to riff off of unexpected similarities. Virtual networking requires a bit of extra oomph to get the ball rolling, so come prepared to bring the energy and sustain the conversation.

5. Always follow up

Now, more than ever, it’s important to cultivate relationships online intentionally. In fact, it’s our only option in many cases. Connect with all of your new contacts on LinkedIn as soon as possible, and make sure to send a note with your invitation referencing the event and your conversation. You never know when your new professional pal might come in clutch, and you can likely help them as well!

If you meet a potential mentor or recruiter during the event, ask for permission to email them questions or set up a virtual coffee chat! Formulate your follow-up game plan as the event unfolds, and approach each conversation with the intention to make the most of your screen time. Interested in learning more about follow-ups?! Check out the upcoming Gen Hired webinar presented by Neutrogena® on 12/14 at 12:00 pm EST for additional tips!

Bonus tip: Tweet it! 

If you’re participating in a large virtual conference featuring a speaker you’d love to connect with further, tweet gems from your notes using the conference hashtag and tag the presenter. Or, consider sharing your learnings in a brief LinkedIn article with relevant tags. Speaking from personal experience, you’ll increase your credibility as a resource to others, and you’ll likely connect with even more people who you might not have met during the event. Worst case scenario: you’ve shared some helpful career information. Best case scenario: you connect with the speaker and develop a mutually beneficial relationship as a result. It’s a win-win scenario, people!

At the end of the day, the first step to tackling a new challenge is simply showing up and being fully present. Treat each virtual networking experience as a learning opportunity, and remember: you bring intrinsic value into each and every situation by just being you. 

Now, go get ‘em!