COVID is a challenging time for us all, but especially for those who are job hunting. With unemployment high and so many companies struggling, it’s a buyer’s market, you need to be prepared to stand out in a crowded field of applicants. And in a world where we’re working from home, developing a new way of to approach the market through networking and interviewing virtually is crucial.   Opportunities do exist!

Networking is an essential activity for everyone. Talking with my professional peers, it is amazing to hear about the number of life-altering opportunities and business relationships gained by meeting or making a connection with someone.  One of my favourite examples is a client who went out to get his morning paper at the same time as his neighbour, they spoke briefly and found out they both worked in financial services. As the conversation progressed the neighbour was able to help my client by introducing him into one of his target companies.

In our new, almost-virtual world, you need to be even more diligent, creative and able to think outside the box in order to set yourself apart. Here are some quick tips to help you maximise your impact when networking online.

  1. Build and strengthen your network
    While making connections is important, it is also equally important to take time to nurture and strengthen those connections. It might be great that you have 500+ professional connections on LinkedIn, but how well do you really know them? LinkedIn has seen a 55% increase in engagement since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, including messages and connections. Take time to reach out to your network and work to set up virtual meetings with those that you would like to learn more about or where there is an opportunity for further collaboration.
  2. Understand what makes you unique
    By taking the time to review your what you bring to the table – your strengths, skills and achievements you’ll be much clearer about what sets you apart from others (your USP). As Oscar Wilde said so well, “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken”.
  3. Prepare carefully and intentionally
    While I’m a big fan of Zoom and its capabilities, I’ve seen my share of mistakes. As a rule, you should prepare for a virtual networking meeting just as you would for an in-person meeting, especially when you’re introducing yourself to people for the first time. Be clear about the purpose for your meeting and what you’re hoping to achieve from it. It really helps if everyone is on the same agenda and avoids wasting precious time for everyone.
  4. Present yourself professionally
    How you come across physically during an online meeting makes a huge impact to your audience. Their perception of you is their reality so make sure you are properly set up and ready for the conversation. Check that your camera is in the right place/position, you’re dressed appropriately, you’re sitting attentively (not slouched on the sofa!) and that you’re smiling and making eye contact with everyone when possible. Don’t forget to wear colour as this will help you stand out from the crowd!
  5. Make your introductions work for you
    According to research, it takes only 1/10th of a second to form a first impression about a person. Being able to articulate yourself succinctly and authentically – who you are, what you do – can set the tone for future interactions. Most of us fall back in to ‘business speak’ because we think it’s going to impress others. Don’t! Speak to those closest to you and practice telling them what you do for work. Keep going until they can repeat it back in a way that everyone understands. Trust me, this will have far greater impact than big words and jargon!

Finding work during the pandemic may seem challenging but the opportunities are out there if you’re prepared to do the groundwork and remain proactive in your job search. The good news is that we’re in this together, and by reinvigorating your strategies for networking in a virtual world, hopefully you’ll find people are much more receptive to your efforts than you might expect, and they’ll welcome and respond positively.   Make networking fun, attend sessions around your hobbies.  You never know who you might meet.

In my role as a leadership and career transition coach I work with individuals across the FTSE 350 as well as startups and SMEs. If you’re looking for additional job search support, why not join one of my upcoming webinars or get in touch.