“Networking” is not everyone’s favourite thing, but it can be a valuable way to land your next ethical job – right after applying via EthicalJobs.com.au of course!
But with so many Australians working remotely, and so many events either paused or moved online, it’s made life trickier than ever for jobseekers who want to meet new people and grow your professional networks.
Despite the challenges of working remotely, there are still many ways to make valuable new connections that might lead to a job – even from behind your computer. Here are six things to consider:
1. Find an online community that’s right for you
Perhaps the most significant upside of virtual networking is that you aren’t limited to a single location or time zone. The downside is that it’s easy to become overwhelmed by choice and waste a lot of time, so you’ll need to be strategic in how you find the best networking opportunities for you.
Online career-focused communities and groups are a good place to start networking straight away. A quick search will usually bring up a wide array of groups, either in your area or in your general field. Be sure to narrow your search depending on what you want to get out of being part of a group.
Some places to connect with people include:
Linkedin groups – Professional networks of every flavour – though some are more active than others. Join some relevant ones and get (constructively) involved in some discussions.
Facebook groups – There’s less likely to be a Facebook group for every professional sector, but there’s a higher probability that people will be engaged here than almost anywhere else.
Meetups – While these probably won’t be happening face-to-face in many parts of Australia for a little while, they’re still happening virtually. Work-related meetups skew more towards tech and marketing roles, but you might be surprised by what’s available.
Slack communities – Particularly useful for connecting with others in roles like technology, marketing or design.
Don’t bother with sites/apps like Reddit, Twitter or Instagram, where it’s most likely that you’ll lose hours or days scrolling without making any meaningful connections.
2. Find virtual networking events
Online conferences and events are also a good way to stay on top of what’s happening in your sector or field of work. Directories like Eventbrite can be a place to start looking – or just start Googling.
Another good avenue to find new connections is via your industry’s professional bodies. While some have been cancelled this year, most peak bodies are still holding networking events online, so investigate which events are being held by peak bodies and associations in your sector and specific field. Keep in mind that you may need to join up as an association member to attend some of these events.
While all of these avenues will help you to connect with like-minded people, be sure to narrow your choice to a few top contenders – otherwise you might end up wasting a lot of time.
3. Prepare yourself for virtual networking
Prior to any event or meetup you attend, have a clear understanding of what you want to get out of it.
Take the time to check the guest list – if possible – and take note of anyone you know or want to get to know better. While it may be tempting to focus your attention on higher-level or higher-profile contacts, don’t forget to reach out to peers in the event as well.
Most online events have a participant list or space for attendee profiles, so make the most of this by preparing a short, polished bio for yourself before each event. It doesn’t need to be long, but focus on some highlights such as your background, interests and career goals. Like a dating app, your attendee profile is the most important way for other event goers to find out who you are, what you do, and how to reach out to you in the real world.
4. Participate fully
Virtual experiences really benefit from active engagement and participation – the more you put in, the more likely you are to get something valuable out.
If a topic or issue has sparked some burning questions, write them down in a convenient place before the event starts in preparation for the Q&A. A thoughtful question or comment can ignite further conversation and provide more value to the entire group, as well as make you memorable for other participants.
5. Look to connect and offer value
While virtual events can be a great way to meet lots of new people, they aren’t usually an ideal space to foster meaningful, ongoing relationships.
If you’ve made a connection of any kind with someone during a virtual even, get hold of their details – or find them on LinkedIn – and reach out in a personal message or email. It’s not good form to directly ask someone you don’t know for help, but it might be valuable to mention that you’re looking for work in your message, and leave it up to the other person to make suggestions if they happen to know of opportunities that might be helpful for you.
Try sharing your participation and any key takeaways or resources on your social media after the event – be sure to use event-specific hashtags to reach more people interested in the event. Tag any new connections and encourage them to share insights they gained during the event too. This is a great way to continue the connection, and demonstrate your knowledge and expertise to potential employers.
6. Reach out to old colleagues or your alma mater
Making new contacts can be a real thrill, but don’t forget about the connections you’ve already made in your career or studies.
If you’ve just graduated, reach out and reconnect with old classmates and see how they’re progressing in their early career stages. If someone is succeeding in an area you’d like to get into, consider asking them to an informational interview to pick their brain a bit more. Reconnecting with a friendly face might even give you the confidence to attend more meet-ups and opportunities as networking buddies.
Networking can sometimes be scary or daunting, but it can also be incredibly valuable as part of your career journey. If you’re afraid to get started, just think about it as a process of asking a stranger for directions. It’s rare that someone refuses, and often people really enjoy helping a stranger to find their way to their destination.