People can be a great source of support when we are faced with uncertainty when we find ourselves working in unfamiliar settings and circumstances. People can be instrumental in finding our next career move and helping us make the transition, but how do we achieve networking for our career development when we find ourselves working from home?
Meeting colleagues in the coffee queue, connections by chance, listening to colleagues across the desk, all those ad-hoc meetups have been placed on hold as we enter our third lockdown here in the UK. Many people are once again forced to work from home which makes the building or expanding of our support networks more challenging. So how do you virtually build a community raising your profile and exploring potential career opportunities?
Your starting point is to be clear about what you want from your network, what is your priority?
- Maybe you have recently moved organisations and your priorities centre around developing your knowledge of the organisation, building connection with key stakeholders and learning about the industry.
- Perhaps you are looking to move within your organisation and you want to understand more about different parts of the business to assess if they could be a potential fit for you and to understand really what the job entails.
- For others, considering a career change you need help figuring out what else to do and how, and therefore your needs are to explore different industries of interest and/or how your profession changes in different sectors.
- Maybe you aren’t ready to change careers, instead, it’s about finding support with the challenges of working from home and balancing homeschooling and/or feelings of isolation.
- Or maybe like me, you work for yourself and you want to build connections with other entrepreneurs for inspiration and collaboration opportunities.
If building a network, a supportive community is not something that comes naturally to you, be clear about your objective, what you need. This enables you to take focused actions and invest your time in taking steps that will get you results.
Once you are clear on what you want to achieve, you can consider who can support you.
Yes, it can be daunting connecting with people and asking for help, but generally, people do like to help others and as the old adage goes 'if you don’t ask you don’t get.'
If you struggle to ask for help think about what you can offer in return. For example, if you are new to an organisation and you want to engage with a key stakeholder, position this as an opportunity to understand what is working for them in the relationship now and to understand where the challenges are and understand how you can work better together.
Start by looking at your existing network and understand who can help you fulfil your networking needs. Who can help provide the information you are seeking or make the introductions and connections to others?
The key in this step is to be clear in what you want them to help you with. I recommend you develop a few key questions and priorities your top 3 to share. For example, these may include:
- I want to understand the responsibilities of this department and how it connects to my own role
- What is a typical day, month, a year like for this team?
- What skills are critical to be successful in this role?
- What technique, structure are you putting in place to adjust to working from home?
Scroll through your connections. The average regular LinkedIn user has 400 connections and 338 Facebook friends, amongst your contacts who can help you find answers to your questions.
However, you may want to look beyond your existing network and if this is the case look at opportunities to make new connections using LinkedIn. Search for people who work for your organisation, or in your profession but in a different sector. If you are looking at making a career change uncover people who work in organisations, industries or professions that hold intrigue for you. You may find that you have mutual contacts that could help make an introduction. Introductions through your existing network are likely to have greater success than a cold connection, however, don’t let this stop you from reaching out directly or searching for online communities and groups.
If your networking needs are about finding support outside the organisation, whether that is finding a new career or creating some escape from work you may want to look at online events and useful sites to explore are Eventbrite.com; Meetup.com or maybe my own online community Wine Women Wisdom.
While face to face contact enables us to receive all forms of communication, we are working with restrictions and whilst Zoom or equivalents can be our next best options, for many, we are suffering from Zoom burnout. With this context, we need to be creative and be open to alternatives. In a discussion with a client last month, she had started to have virtual walks with her network as a way of holding each other to account to step away from their makeshift office and get some fresh air and exercise and providing mutual support.
However, you make your connection; remember the networking etiquette of recognising their time and sticking to it. Acknowledging how they have helped and asking how you can help them in return.
Yes, networking for your career development and growth can be more challenging while we are forced to work from home and not meet in person; however, there are also opportunities to connect with people wider and with many events being taken online during these times we have the ability to have a wider reach with greater ease.
- So think about what do you need from your network
- Identify who can help you fulfil that need
- And make contact; be clear on your purpose and be appreciative of their time.
If you found this article interest you may enjoy reading these:
- How to promote your career without appearing arrogant
- 12 Ways to stay motivated in a job you can't leave...yet
- Why you may have lost your enthusiasm for your job
As a career coach, I help people remove work challenges so they can achieve greater career fulfillment and happiness. If you are struggling to make changes to your career, a coach could help you find a way forward. Get in touch or book a free introductory session to find out more.