How To Broaden Your Career Goals In The New Normal
We all know that networking helps to improve our careers and job prospects. But, how can we do this safely in the new normal?
Large scale conventions and roundtable discussions are unlikely to happen again – at least for a while. During this time, professionals face the issue of being unable to network and speak to their peers. For businesses, it is like being cut off from the rest of the world.
For the moment, it would seem that the internet has stepped in to reconnect people. Event organisers like TED Conferences have moved online; and redefined what it means to interact with others within an industry.
With that in mind, how do you network in the new normal?
Join/host virtual networking sessions
It’s a no-brainer that you should be joining virtual networking sessions if you want to network. Yet, it’s something that tends to get overlooked if you’re used to making contacts through other means. After all, going into one of these sessions requires a strong intent to connect with other people.
You don’t even need to wait for someone else to organise an event. Due to the ease of setting up video calls, you can also try to create your own opportunities. Hosting a networking event isn’t nearly as easy as it sounds, but it is much easier than setting one up in real life.
You’ll need strong organisational skills, some connections (friends) to build a core audience, and technical expertise for setting up livestreams and creating virtual chat rooms. Thankfully, there are plenty of resources with advice on how to go about this.
Speak up during webinars
If there’s one thing to be certain about most Malaysians, it’s that we don’t like to ask questions during presentations. However, participating in an open discussion with the presenter is a good way to put yourself out there.
There is no need to be rude and interrupt the session, instead engage with others when the opportunity of questions arises. Most webinars allocate time for Q&A sessions, so don’t be shy about using it all to ask follow-up questions.
Engaging with the material and presenter helps if you need to reach out again later, since they’ll already remember you as the person who was asking questions. Just make sure that you’re staying on topic and not using up time for the sake of getting attention.
Social media/Instant messaging
LinkedIn may be the first thing you think about when it comes to online networking. It works for sure, but it’s not the only option you have. Facebook groups can also be excellent avenues, although it may take a while to find one that is relevant to your needs.
While many communities have moved on to instant messaging groups like WhatsApp and Telegram, these are more suited for workplace updates and announcements rather than making connections.. The layout of the messages makes it very difficult to have conversations with particular people and things can easily get derailed.
One of the newest platforms you can also investigate is Discord. Originally designed for video games, its robust servers and ease of use have made it popular with the younger, tech savvy generation of entrepreneurs. So, if those are the kinds of circles you want to move in, then it offers a valuable alternative to other forms of social media.
The benefit of social media and instant messaging is that you can network all the time. There’s no need to wait for special occasions. You just need to be active in your chosen space.
Create value with your presence
It’s not enough that you join online discussions, you also have to make sure people remember that you were there (for the right reasons!). Which is why your presence should have some value to the other participants.
This shouldn’t only apply to webinars or networking video calls. You can show your worth through social media comments as well. This shouldn’t mean that you try to show off your knowledge or expertise, but rather enhance discussions by raising related points or questions. Or even just answering questions for people who are lost by all the talk.
Have a clear goal
Going online requires a more targeted approach beyond just ‘networking’. There are no hallways to stalk or coffee tables to share, so more important than ever to know who you want to approach and what you want out of the interaction.
It’s important that you define your digital networking strategy before jumping on the bandwagon. So, before you get started in any of this, you should have set one of these goals:
- Career opportunities
- Entrepreneurial contacts
- Contacts for resources
- Improving your career visibility
- Be aware of technical limitations
Interacting with people in cyberspace isn’t the same as in the real world. You must be aware of the drawbacks of using video conferencing to network with others.
Being at home with just a computer screen presents us with a lot of distractions. These distractions may prevent people from paying attention to what you’re saying during discussions, which limits your ability to make an impact. There’s not much you can do about it, so don’t get discouraged if people are not engaging with your topic; they might just be pulled away to answer emails.
Online discussions also make it impossible for smaller groups to break out from the larger collective. A study from the University of Glasgow found that groups of five or less individuals facilitated more interpersonal dialogue, and that participants would be more influenced by others in the group.
Larger groups would instead turn into a monologue led by the most dominant speaker, which limits the amount of interaction among other participants. Keeping this in mind, it may be more beneficial to join smaller groups instead of larger ones.
Get used to technology
Online meetings, webinars and teleconferences are only going to get more common.
Businesses have already discovered the efficiency of doing things over the internet. It also helps that technology is getting easier and easier to use, with many platforms available to cater to many different needs.
The concept of maintaining social distancing may not be around forever, but the new normal of online networking is definitely here to stay.