How To Improve Your Career In The New Normal

We all know that networking helps improve our careers and job prospects. But how can we do this safely in the new normal?

Large-scale conventions and roundtables are unlikely to happen again – at least for a while. Meanwhile, professionals face the problem of not being able to network and talk to their peers. For businesses, it’s like being cut off from the rest of the world.

For now, it looks like the internet has stepped in to reconnect people. Organizers of events 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 goes without saying that you should join virtual networking sessions if you want to network. Still, this is something that tends to get overlooked if you are used to making contacts in other ways. After all, participating in one of these sessions requires a strong intention to connect with other people.

You don’t even have to wait for someone else to host an event. Due to the ease of setting up video calls, you can also try creating your own opportunities. Hosting a networking event isn’t as easy as it sounds, but it’s a lot easier than hosting one in real life.

You will need strong organizational skills, a few connections (friends) to build a basic audience, and technical expertise to set up live broadcasts and create virtual chat rooms. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources out there with advice on how to do this.

Speak during webinars

If there is one thing for most Malaysians, it is that we don’t like to ask questions during introductions. However, participating in an open discussion with the presenter is a good way to introduce yourself.

It is not necessary to be rude and interrupt the session, but to engage with others when the opportunity for questions arises. Most webinars devote time to Q&A sessions, so feel free to use everything up to ask follow-up questions.

Engaging with the material and the presenter helps if you need to re-contact later, as they will already remember you as the person asking the questions. Just make sure you stay on topic and don’t use time to grab attention.

Social networks / instant messaging

LinkedIn may be the first thing you think of when it comes to online networking. It works for sure, but it’s not the only option you have. Facebook groups can also be great ways, although it may take a while to find one that suits your needs.

While many communities have shifted to IM groups like WhatsApp and Telegram, these are more suited for workplace updates and announcements than for making connections. The layout of the messages makes conversations with particular people very difficult and things can easily go off the rails.

Discord is one of the newer platforms that you can also explore. Originally designed for video games, its rugged servers and ease of use have made it popular with the younger generation of tech savvy entrepreneurs. So if these are the types of circles you want to grow into, this offers an interesting alternative to other forms of social media.

The great thing about social media and instant messaging is that you can network anytime. There is no need to wait for special occasions. You just need to be active in the space you have chosen.

Create value with your presence

It’s not enough to join online chats, you also need to make sure people remember you were there (for the right reasons!). That is why your presence should have some value for the other participants.

This shouldn’t just apply to webinars or network video calls. You can also show your value through comments on social media. This shouldn’t mean that you are trying to show off your knowledge or expertise, but rather enhance discussions by raising related points or questions. Or even just answer the questions of people who are lost by all the talk.

Have a clear goal

Getting online requires a more focused approach beyond just “networking”. There are no hallways to hunt down or coffee tables to share, so it’s more important than ever to know who you want to speak to and what to expect from the interaction.

It’s important that you define your digital networking strategy before you jump on the bandwagon. So, before you jump into all of this, you should have set one of these goals:

  • Career opportunities
  • Entrepreneurial contacts
  • Contacts for resources
  • Improve the visibility of your career
  • Be aware of technical limitations

Interacting with people in cyberspace is not the same as in the real world. You should be aware of the downsides 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 can prevent people from paying attention to what you are saying during discussions, limiting your ability to make an impact. There isn’t much you can do about it, so don’t be discouraged if people aren’t interested in you; they could simply be withdrawn to respond to emails.

Online chats also prevent small groups from separating from the large collective. A study from the University of Glasgow found that groups of five or fewer made interpersonal dialogue easier and participants would be more influenced by other group members.

Instead, larger groups would turn into a monologue led by the most dominant speaker, which limits the amount of interaction between other participants. With this in mind, it may be more beneficial to join smaller groups than larger groups.

Get used to the technology

Online meetings, webinars and teleconferences will only become more common.
Businesses have already discovered the efficiency of Internet operations. It also helps to make the technology easier and easier to use, with many platforms available to meet many different needs.

The concept of maintaining social distance may not be eternal, but the new standard of online networking is definitely here to stay.

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Jothi Venkat

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