How to Sucessfully Online Network During COVID-19
The Collective Rising |
As a result of COVID-19, our day-to-day in-person interactions are limited, and lay-offs are at an all-time high. As a result of these circumstances, there’s a chance that your next job opportunity may come through someone you don’t have a close personal relationship with.
“Weak ties” are now of greater importance than ever before. Mark Granovetter, sociologist and author of The Strength of Weak Ties, highlights the significance of these low-stakes relationships and the professional benefits that come from them.
“In 2020, people are more likely to get new jobs through “weak ties,” people they rarely see and don’t know well, rather than through relationships with people they see often and know well.” “Weak Ties” are powerful because they expand your network to those beyond your friends and family, thus, granting you more chances to be connected to new opportunities.”
Over the past two months, thousands of job seekers received job offers that have stemmed from initial cold outreach emails or messages. This success is proof that online networking is worth the effort, and that there are opportunities to be seized during this time.
The key to successful online networking is personalization. Do not send spam messages, generic emails, or LinkedIn messages by the dozens – people can tell when a message is copied and pasted. If your goal is to get a reply back from the stranger you’re reaching out to, you need to craft a thoughtful message and be deliberate with your entry point into the conversation and how you angle your ask.
To do this successfully, follow the following steps as you go about online networking.
Step 1: Do your research before reaching out.
When looking for new weak ties, seek out people who work in your industry of choice, have started their own company, or work in recruitment or hiring departments for your target companies.
The first thing you should look for in your research is some common ground. Google them before you send a cold-email or LinkedIn InMail. Look up the schools they attended, what initiatives they are involved in, what their interests are, their hometown, what they are passionate about, and their career story.
When searching for similarities, note that it isn’t essential that you have a school or location in common. Instead, try to identify any similarities in career experiences. Did they switch departments at a company, and you did the same? For the best results, find a relatable conversation opener.
Assume that the people you are reaching out to will also do their homework. We recommend polishing your social media presence and updating your profile on The Collective Rising before you begin your outreach so that there are no gaps or inaccurate information that appears when people search for you online.
Step 2: Demonstrate your interest in learning about them.
“Give to get” is a great motto to abide by when online networking. When reaching out to someone, express curiosity in learning about them rather than directly asking what they can do for you.
The most responded to cold emails, and messages usually contain requests such as “I would love to hear about your career journey.”
These inquiries work well in cold outreach because people like to be praised and talk about themselves, and don’t want to feel as though they are being aggressively pitched.
Once you have the dialogue going, and you’re ready to make your job-related ask, take care to be specific and respectful. For example, if you were recently laid off as a result of COVID-19 and are seeking advice on how to pivot your career, you could ask the person:
- Do you have any advice you could share on how to get in touch with the hiring manager at [name of the company you want to work for]?
If you’re reaching out to a company’s founder, and don’t see the right position available on their website, you could ask them:
- Do you know of any openings?
- Do you anticipate bringing anyone on to help with [a strong skill of yours] in the near future?
- I’d love to find a way to contribute to [name of the company you want to work for] and my experience doing [examples of work you have done that show off key skills] I believe would serve as a value add to your company during this time.
Step 3: Interact with them on social media and engage with their content.
Once you identify the people you want to network with, follow them on social media, and commit to interacting with their content, and supporting them digitally by commenting and liking their posts and responding to their stories.
Social media is an excellent tool for online networking, but you have to be cautious not to come on too strong, too soon, or it can weird people out.
Step 4: If you feel comfortable, consider leveraging shared connections to broker an introduction.
If you have a mutual friend or acquaintance in common with the person you want to connect with, consider asking that person if they would be willing to give you an introduction. If this mutual connection is someone that you have not spoken to recently, consider setting a catch-up call with them, and interacting with their social content for a few weeks before you proceed to ask them to do a favor for you.
If time is of the essence, you can be direct and send a message such as this:
- Hello [Name of Friend] it’s been a while since we talked. How are you doing?… I’m in the middle of a job search and I’ve noticed you are connected to [name of person you want to get in touch with]. I was wondering if you would be willing to make an introduction.
Step 5: Remind yourself that this is low-risk.
While it can, of course, be nerve-wracking to send a message to someone you don’t know that you admire, keep things in perspective. The worst thing that happens is that they don’t respond to you – it’s not that big of a deal.
Don’t let a few rejections or lack of responses stop you from online networking with others. Instead, set the expectation that not everybody is going to get back to you, and if someone doesn’t respond, it is likely not personal. Rather than focusing on feeling embarrassed or ashamed by your message’s lack of response, focus on finding others you admire and continue to conduct outreach, politely and respectfully, using the tactics outlined in step one through three.
Online networking can feel awkward when you’re first getting started, but don’t let that deter you. Keep putting yourself out there, and eventually, your cold-outreach will likely be met with a worthwhile opportunity.