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Creating Successful Leaders

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When you’re stuck at home all day, with only your cat or a couple other people to keep you company, professional networking may sound like a strange term from a long-ago place!

Not so. Networking is just as (if not more) important than ever. If you’ve recently been furloughed or lost your job, it’s important. If you’re looking to transition to another career, it’s important. If you’re hoping to gain a promotion or move into a leadership position at your organization, it’s important.

What’s more, if you decide to put effort into networking now (when so many people are caught up in the COVID-19 pandemic and not focusing on their careers), you’ll gain an edge over your peers.

How can you approach virtual networking?

Cathy Paper, founder of RockPaperStar, is a professional coach and marketer. She suggests starting your networking with people you already know (those who are well-connected or influential) and expanding it from there. Ask for introductions, so you’re networking won’t be “cold,” but “warm.”

Cathy also suggests going into your networking with a plan. Think about how many people you would like to connect with each week, and aim for that. Also, consider your approach. Will you be emailing? Calling? Sending a LinkedIn message? Keep in mind that not everyone will respond, and plan accordingly.

When you send a message, it is useful to bring up what YOU offer, and not just what you want. Show that you’re useful and willing to help. Otherwise, your invitation to connect will appear to be self-serving. By approaching networking with a mentality of service, you will show that you’re just as interested in helping as being helped. Networking should never be a one-way street.

You may also want to show your creative side when networking. How can you help others remember you? How can you stand out? You don’t want to be tacky, but you do want to be unique. Come up with a catchy phrase that captures what you do, or direct your potential connect to a resource that might be useful for them.

Follow-up and stay connected! New connections aren’t useful if you let them slip through the cracks. Stay connected by sending out regular emails or adding them to your newsletter list (with their permission). You could also post articles on your blog and share them through social media, to A) stay top-of-mind and B) demonstrate that you have valuable information to share.

Virtual networking doesn’t have to be intimidating. Make a list of potential connections, ask for an introduction (if you have a connection), and send a thoughtful email or message that conveys who you are and what you do. And don’t forget to follow-up. In many ways, virtual networking is easier than face-to-face networking because you can sit behind your screen and think about what you’d like to say before you say it.

The real key: Just do it! Put yourself out there, take a risk, and start making connections today.


MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
NOW LIVE: CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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