One benefit of networking from home is that you don’t have to worry about standing in a room full of other professionals and job seekers, trying to make an impressive first impression with the 30-second elevator pitch you memorized the night before.
While the idea of spending less time networking in person can be a relief for some, successfully networking from home can be difficult if you don’t develop the right strategies. Like how working from home can make productivity a challenge, it’s tempting to put your networking efforts on the back burner when you’re not attending networking events regularly.
If spending less time socializing in person has given you more time to think about refocusing your networking efforts: here are 4 tactics that will help you maintain, discover and develop new connections that you can turn to for career advice and opportunities.
Request Informational interviews
According to LinkedIn editor, Jessi Hempel: “Doing an informational interview with someone at one of the companies you’ve applied for might be the first thing to do.”
Whether it’s an in-person or virtual meeting, Making connections with employees at a company of interest is a great way to boost your chances of being hired by that company down the road.
It’s common for employees to refer people they already have a professional relationship with to hiring managers. Plus, professionals you’re interested in speaking with likely have more time for meeting new people than they had in the past.
Make sure that you don’t aim too high when reaching out to someone for an informational interview. While a recently hired intern might not have enough experience to share knowledge of a company’s inner workings, an organization’s highest-ranking executives likely won’t have time to meet with you. Depending on the size of an organization, aim to request an interview from a mid-level employee who understands as many of their employer’s internal processes as possible.
Consult for free (to a point)
Offering your services pro bono can be a successful strategy for getting noticed, appreciated, and even sought after by potential employers when you’re starting your career. Consulting for free is like spending money on marketing your business: if you do it successfully, you’ll bring in new (preferably paid) opportunities. Even if you already have a full-time job or a healthy client base, committing to working on small, pro bono projects is an excellent way to give back and cultivate mutually beneficial relationships.
- Non-profit and community organizations are often looking for volunteers with unique professional skill sets.
- Local small businesses typically can’t afford to pay consultants, but working with them can help you gain experience within industries you want to target in your job search.
- Consulting for professional and trade associations helps you get noticed by your ideal clients, even if you don’t have the credentials to join these associations yourself.
Of course, just like a business can’t spend its entire budget on marketing, you probably can’t afford to spend all of your time working without pay. Volunteering your services should be thought of as an investment towards future opportunities. If the time you’re putting into free consulting work isn’t resulting in the benefits you’re looking for, it might be best to invest more time into other networking strategies.
Refer mutual contacts and ask for referrals in return
Whether it’s online or offline, offering referrals to your contacts is a great way to build relationships and encourage your connections to return the favour when the opportunity presents itself. To increase your access to referrals, consider actively participating in networking circles. Join business networking organizations that allow you to make professional connections with people who work in a wide variety of fields.
Remember that networking is about building strong, mutually beneficial relationships with your contacts. Ask people you meet about their ideal customers, clients, or employers and make sure they know about your preferred connections. Even if you work in the same field as a contact who’s looking for referrals, you may still be able to help them out by recommending them to connections who aren’t your ideal clients but might be theirs.
Of course, you’ll only want to provide referrals for people you feel confident will do an excellent job if hired. Therefore, if you haven’t directly worked with a contact before, you need to ensure you provide evidence to prove to them that your services are worth sharing with their network. Once someone refers you to a contact, the quality of your work is a direct reflection of their professional judgement after all.
You can use LinkedIn’s Advanced Search feature to discover secondary contacts (i.e. your contact’s contacts) with whom you’d like to be introduced. Writing a referral template for your contacts to use when introducing you via email or direct message can also increase your chances of gaining a referral.
Make a LinkedIn strategy
With almost 600 million users worldwide, 15 million of whom are Canadian, LinkedIn is the most popular online professional networking tool. It’s easy to create a LinkedIn profile and connect with your peers, but you need to develop a strategy for standing out to the 87% of corporate recruiters who use LinkedIn to search for job candidates.
- Write and request recommendations. Writing a recommendation for a professional you respect provides social proof of their hard work and skill to the LinkedIn community. Ask connections if they can write recommendations for you in return. Please don’t be shy about asking them to highlight the skills you possess that are the most valuable to your job search.
- Reach out to new people. While you wouldn’t want to ask individuals you don’t know very well to write a recommendation for you; you can reach out and respectfully ask for career advice. LinkedIn is an excellent tool for researching potential contacts for informational interviews. Having connections in common with someone and giving them a chance to get to know you through your LinkedIn profile will only increase your chances of forming a relationship.
- Use different forms of media to show off your hard work. Part of LinkedIn’s beauty is that you can showcase your experience, skills and achievements in a more dynamic way than you can with a traditional resume. You can add images, videos, PDFs and links to other online platforms that present your career highlights.
If all else fails, call in a professional. If you absolutely can’t sit in front of your blank LinkedIn profile any longer trying to come up with the perfect headline or summary, it might be time to call in additional resources. Forbes contributor Chris Westfall’s article “15 New Ideas For Your LinkedIn Profile” has more helpful advice for fine-tuning your LinkedIn presence. Westfall and many other career coaches can help you craft your digital CV so you can start your online networking journey on the right foot.
Whether you’re used to networking in-person or online, you’re not alone if you find networking to be one of the most daunting career-building tasks. Add one of these at-home networking strategies to your regular professional communication routine. You’ll be on your way to growing your network without leaving the comfort of your home office!