Professional Development

How to network virtually and make meaningful connections

Written by Eric Titner

It’s no secret that the entire work world has been experiencing incredibly rapid shifts at speeds that would have been completely unpredictable just a few years ago. We can point to a few obvious reasons why things are currently in a state of such unprecedented flux, including a global pandemic that has profoundly impacted nearly every facet of life, as well as a tidal wave of technological innovation that’s forcing a rapid evolution in how work and business are conducted at every level.

But the truth is, things in the work world are always evolving and change is a variable that we must constantly contend with—whether or not we see it coming. Those among us who respond accordingly to change are best positioned to pivot effectively and find a successful path forward.

Chief among the recent changes in the professional world has been the transition to remote work. All of a sudden (literally overnight in many instances), employees at all levels and across industries have had to quickly adjust and get comfortable with the notion of working and connecting with others virtually—and many employers have discovered that employees who are well-positioned to work remotely can be just as effective or even more so while working at home. That means we should expect some of these changes to persist long after the pandemic recedes.

Now that the game has changed, in order to remain viable as an employee or a prospective candidate for a new position you have to be able to network virtually—either with your current employer or to lock down a new opportunity. If you’re currently navigating the world of remote work and want to figure out how best to position yourself for career advancement, consider the following virtual networking strategies to help you reach new levels of success.

Be a joiner

Thanks to social networking platforms and professional organizations that are hosting virtual meetups, you can build your brand and network without ever leaving home—just be sure to be proactive and seek them out. The best part is that once you start getting involved and meeting new folks, your reputation will grow, and new chances to build upon your network will open up. Then, hopefully, word of who you are and what you potentially offer as a prospective employee spreads far and wide. Just make sure you remain active and engaged and seek out the right events—in the world of virtual networking, not all opportunities are created equal, and some industries are notorious for being prey to sketchy online events that are little more than costly scams. As with all things online, research carefully and proceed with caution.

Don’t be shameless

Snagging a promotion or new job these days often requires you to sell more than just your passion and personality—it often requires you to sell yourself as a good potential fit or addition to a company’s existing culture and brand. In today’s work world, your best opportunity to make a good first impression is to establish a solid brand presence online. If done correctly, it will open up new networking opportunities. When networking virtually, it can be hard to demonstrate your sincerity and genuine eagerness to selflessly contribute to the success of others—factors that are often key in developing deep and lasting professional connections. Always remember that displaying transparent or self-serving motives is not the way to build a healthy professional virtual network. Be humble, appreciative, and helpful towards others, and be careful not to display hollow attempts at quick and shameless self-promotion because others will likely see right through you and label you accordingly.

Know your tools

These days, networking opportunities can come (or disappear) in the blink of an eye and the difference between success and failure can come down to your ability to effectively seize the moment. Networking platforms and video conferencing technology allow us to make quick impressions of others and schedule impromptu meetings at a moment’s notice. Therefore, it’s in your best interest to use the tools at your disposal to enhance your visibility—including video conferencing, social networks, email, and text exchanges, and yes, even phone calls in an effort to stay connected, build brand equity and demonstrate your value. Make sure you’re comfortable with using the wide range of available tools so that you come off as professional and polished. This will help you avoid embarrassing flubs or missteps.

Make a better effort

Just because it can be harder to network and make meaningful connections virtually, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible or should be avoided—in fact, it should push you to double your efforts. Work harder to stay in touch with people in your orbit, keep them updated on how things are going in your professional life, and show an interest in theirs, and if feasible try and organize after-work events and activities to stay connected. Remember, professional relationships are just like other types of relationships—they require effort on your part, so don’t forget to nurture them.

Networking virtually can open up a world of potential opportunities, as well as help you build your personal brand and advance your career—but it also poses some new challenges. Use the strategies and advice presented here to make and sustain meaningful connections with colleagues from anywhere.

About the author

Eric Titner

Eric is a NYC-based editor and writer, with years of experience in career-focused content development across a wide range of industries.