Today I want to give you the ultimate guide to online networking. I’ve had a lot of conversations on LinkedIn about this and have realized that online networking is one of the biggest hang-ups people have in their careers! How do I do online networking? When do I use online networking? Why should I like online networking? And I also hear so many objections to online networking!
I’m going to tell you why I love online networking – and why you should too! Because right now is the very best time to up your online networking skills.
WHAT WE’RE TALKING ABOUT
- Why I love networking
- Addressing your doubts about networking
- Why you should network
- Shifting your mindset around networking
- Some ways to get started with online networking
WHY I LOVE NETWORKING
I absolutely love networking – both online and in person. I believe networking is the best way to make friends, business connections, and to find clients. Why? Because you’re actually building relationships. Networking is mutually beneficial professional relationships developed over time. It’s not a one-time thing or a one-hit-wonder sort of deal. It is a great opportunity to meet new people, build relationships, hopefully build my career, and also build the other person’s career. It’s a two-way street.
Right now, I only really do online networking – because a lot of us are working from home now and that’s how this season is. But there’s so much you can do via online networking! There are no excuses here – no rain, shine, things are closed, or other excuses. It’s online, ready and waiting for you. There is also no cost for online networking. There are a lot of networking events you can go to in-person that can cost $20 or even up to thousands of dollars for a conference. With online networking, there is no cost!
With online networking, you can also be very strategic. At a big conference, it’s a bit of divine intervention to meet the person or people who will really move your career forward. Online, you can be strategic in who you reach out to, who you network with, and who you want to be associated with when it comes to your career.
I’ve done online networking on LinkedIn and Instagram. I’d say that LinkedIn is definitely the place it’s more expected. And LinkedIn is the place you’ll find the most people practicing online networking and open to it.
Online networking is also just not as awkward as in-person networking. You don’t have the awkwardness of going to a networking event solo. And rejection doesn’t feel as bad. The worst that can happen if you send a message to someone is that they don’t reply…aka they ghost you. And that’s really okay! I’ve experienced it through online dating and networking, and while it isn’t fun, it’s not the worst. It’s a mild amount of rejection. And we shouldn’t be scared of that. Getting friendly with risk and rejection enables you to see that there’s nothing you can’t do or try because rejection and failure just aren’t that bad. Change your mindset around rejection, and use online networking to get friendly with risk and rejection. I promise, it’s so good for you!
OBJECTIONS TO ONLINE NETWORKING
There are a lot of objections I hear (and have held myself) around online networking. First of all, we think it takes too much time. In that, we’re assuming that our online networking will work every time. In my experience, it does not work every single time. But, the more times you put something out there, the more times you get something back. It’s a volume thing. You aren’t the most important person to the person you’re reaching out to, but the more you keep reaching out, the more it works!
The time you put into online networking will serve you so much better than applying online. Online networking is way more effective than online applications. Try online networking for 10 minutes a day. That’s it. See where it takes you!
Another objection I often hear is this: Isn’t it weird to reach out to someone? Isn’t it kind of stalker-ish? Ten years ago, yes. Today, definitely not! People are meeting their spouses online, doing counseling online, and more. This opens up all kinds of new possibilities for us online, especially via online networking.
The best thing you can do is give context and bring up the “elephant in the room.” Address it in some way like, “this is weird, I know we don’t know each other, but I stumbled across your profile….” But don’t give too much context. A big problem I see with online networking is people who give way too much of a backstory and try to explain their way into why you should chat with them. Be short and sweet and to the point.
A third objection I hear a lot is that not everyone responds. And yes, this is true. But here’s the thing, friend: we have got to get comfortable with rejection. Don’t let the fear of that keep you from online networking. Whoever told you you were going to be 100% perfect 100% of the time? I know you’ve been one of the most ambitious and successful people around you – but you also need to get comfortable with not being 100% successful 100% of the time. If we can get comfortable with this, it allows us to enter courageously into online networking and find great success, even if we get rejected some of the time.
REASONS TO PRACTICE ONLINE NETWORKING
We all know that online networking is a great way to find a job, but there are so many other reasons to network too. Networking can help you find a mentor, which I am a huge proponent of. I have mentors in all areas of my life – spiritual, personal, professional. One of the ways to do this is to ask someone to be your mentor…whether directly or indirectly.
Another great reason to network is that it’s a great way to learn about other industries and new professions. It can help you understand if what you’re doing is what you want to be doing by reaching out to people in other industries and learning what they do. People are your best resource. They’re like a focus group. And you can learn from other professional what they do and if it’s something you’d like to do. Bonus: it can also allow you to get your foot in the door a lot faster. A script to do this:
Hey _____, I’m working at the NYSE right now. I’m looking to make a transition but I am really trying to explore if sales is for me or is not for me. Would you mind hopping on the phone for 10-15 minutes? I have a couple of questions I’d like to ask you. No pressure if not.
Online networking also allows us to connect with other like-minded professionals. Often when we get into a company and role, we forget that it is totally appropriate to try to explore and connect with others who do what we do at other companies. It can help us learn so much and connect outside our company to make friends and potential professional connections for the future.
If you are an entrepreneur or toying with the idea, online networking is a great way to find clients and business. If you are already in this world or debating going into it as an entrepreneur or a consultant, online networking is an incredible way to find your clientele!
CHANGE YOUR MINDSET AROUND ONLINE NETWORKING
To succeed, you have to change your mindset around online networking. It isn’t this all-consuming thing to do. 10 minutes a day is enough! Try it on your LI app while you’re watching Netflix. Easy!
Biggest mindset shift needed: we need to realize networking is a skillset. It’s similar to Excel modeling, leadership, or playing the piano – a learned skillset refined over time. We learn and master this by practicing it. And if you can learn anything in your career, networking is the best thing to spend your time learning, guaranteed! It will multiply your opportunities and add rocket fuel to your career future. If you are able to learn to network (authentically, no slimy networking please!), you will be successful in your career.
Secondly, you need to have a goal for your networking but also separate yourself from the result. Make a goal for how many people you are going to network with. I personally struggle with goal-setting because I feel super boxed in, so the way I like to approach this is having a goal and not being only focused on the end result. Focus on the process, not only the end result. So create a goal: I want to make 5 new contacts by the end of the year; I want to have a mentor by July. Set the goal and set yourself a deadline, then get to work!
I mentioned this before, but networking is not a one-time event. It’s not just a happy hour. It’s relationship-building done over time. You can’t fall into an instant gratification mindset here. We need a crockpot view of networking, not a microwave view of networking. We want deep networking that’s relationally minded and focused on the long haul.
Let’s also not be too templated in our approach. And don’t send out a zillion online networking messages. When I’m talking about quantity, I mean maybe send out 5 for the day. And make sure they’re customized! Tweak the start of the message (or wherever it fits) to be individualized to the person you’re connecting with. Customization makes a response much more likely. I shared an example of how to do this on my episode about how I got on Jenna Kutcher’s podcast. You can find that here.
WHAT TO DO (AND WHAT NOT TO DO) WHEN ONLINE NETWORKING
So, we’ve already covered a lot of ways to shift our mindset around online networking, and that’s critical before we begin. But before we wrap up, I want to give a few tips on what to do and what not to do.
Briefly, here’s what not to do: don’t reach out to someone to be critical or tell them something to improve. It’s just not the best way to make a connection with anyone. I’m okay with failure, but to hear this from a stranger does not make me feel warm toward them or interested in getting further connected with them. If a friend says that, great. But in networking, don’t give unsolicited advice. We want to add value.
What you should do when online networking is to be really short, sweet, and to the point. I have some Online Networking Templates in my shop that can be really beneficial to you. You can literally copy and paste, customize, and put them to work.
There is no excuse to not be networking right now. I want you to grab a piece of paper and write down your goal: I will network this week. It’s going to look like XYZ. Maybe connecting with 5 people a day, 5 days a week. Write it down and start today. If you need help writing these messages to folks, we have the templates ready for you. These are what I have developed to use over years of online networking (plus some phone call templates too!). Find them here.
CREATIVE ONLINE NETWORKING IDEAS:
These are some incredible additional creative online networking ideas from the women in my Recruit the Employer group. These women are becoming irresistible hires by putting in the work to online network and more. If you want to join with them, check out RTE here.
Onto these creative ideas:
- This is a GREAT time to reconnect with old colleagues
- Invite people to a virtual Happy Hour
- Create a LinkedIn Group
- Compliment with no strings attached – I call this good Karma
- Reshare some content they created and tag them in it
- Pay it forward! Connect your friends with each other
ROCK YOUR ONLINE NETWORKING
It’s time, friends. No more excuses, because right now is the very best time to get started with online networking. You can learn to love online networking like me by growing your skills in it, seeing it as truly relationship-focused, and addressing your objections head-on. If you need some help in what to say, snag our Online Networking Templates. Consider them your Jena-approved personal cheatsheet to rock online networking.
If you’re ready to level up your career and networking even more, schedule a strategy session to see if RTE is the right fit for you. We will go over networking and so, so much more. I give you the step-by-step approach and tools to get from stuck in your career to thriving and making more money. The DIY approach will only get you so far…and you don’t have to go this alone, friend! This class will get you to the next level.
Connect with me on LinkedIn and let me know what your biggest takeaway was from this article!