As 2020 slowly comes to a close, many freelancers and other job-seeking professionals face the challenge of virtual professional networking. Finding and performing remote work can be challenging as businesses had to struggle with adopting new work policies. Many professionals have had to embrace change in difficult times, but there are opportunities and strategies to ensure job search success. Networking is part of any professional career development plan, and we suggest five New Year’s Resolutions that can make the difference for people seeking full-time or freelance work in 2021.
- Take a strategic approach to virtual networking: Engaging in a “spray and pray” approach to virtual networking (attending multiple sessions per week) can eventually lead to both “Zoom fatigue” and job search burnout. Performing due diligence when possible to see if there will be mutual contacts should factor into your decision. Crafting an ASCII text file “business card” with your name, position, contact information, and LinkedIn profile/website can facilitate follow up. (If there’s a long stream of contact information within a Zoom chat, you can easily save it as a text file for later review). If a recurring networking event doesn’t feel right, it is permissible to skip it entirely.
- LinkedIn should be your go-to networking channel: Although consistent posting can help boost your profile, commenting on other content, and using LinkedIn groups provide an opportunity to demonstrate your professional expertise. (LinkedIn also suggests best practices for job seekers). Even though other online networking channels exist (such as Angel List for startups), LinkedIn provides multiple opportunities for engaging with key contacts.
- Focus on follow up, even with “older” contacts: Touching base with potential contacts is always a good idea, and sending a quick thank-you fosters relationship-building. This past year, I “checked in” with several contacts to catch-up and determine how I could assist them. (Using a free tool like Calendly allows for scheduling calls based on your schedule and avoids multiple back-and-forth emails when scheduling a follow-up call).
- Remember that networking is more relational than transactional: Successful professional networking doesn’t always result in the one person with one lead but developing a network that can serve as a resource for mentorship, insight, and expertise. Research suggests that most hires result from “weak networking ties.” Building professional relationships come from a sense of sincerity and authenticity; adopting that attitude fosters a strong community of professional contacts.
Transitioning back to semi-normalcy after the pandemic will be difficult. Many Chicago-area businesses are adopting remote work policies to varying degrees of success. Finding and keeping work can be challenging (especially with many people in a state of “underemployment”), so we offer these New Year’s resolutions in a sincere effort to provide hope and guidance.
We’re all in this together, and together we’ll move through it.
Do you have any networking strategies? Do you have any professional (or other) New Year’s Resolutions for 2021? Please join the conversation in the comments below, or comment via our Facebook page. If you wish to contact us directly, please use this contact form.
Thanks for reading, and have a Happy, Safe New Year!