Devastatingly, the pandemic led to more than 1.7million redundancies, but even those who managed to keep hold of their jobs may have been furloughed or taken pay cuts. On top of this, opportunities to advance in a current position may seem like a distant memory for some, while others feel trapped in unfulfilling roles due to fears about job-hopping at such a risky time.
While a successful career relies on skills and experience, our prospects also hinge on relationships, and with meetings, conferences and events no longer happening in person, it’s more important than ever to be present online.
When looking to network online, LinkedIn is often the go-to platform, but there are actually a wealth of other sites, communities and forums that can help you build a professional rapport with the right people.
Why LinkedIn might not be your silver bullet
There’s a reason that LinkedIn is the first port-of-call for many UK professionals. With over 700 million active users, there’s a very good chance that the people you want to see, and be seen by, will be active on this platform.
However, quantity doesn’t necessarily lead to quality. The sheer volume of users on LinkedIn can leave it feeling particularly ‘noisy’, filled with humble brags, thinly veiled sales pitches, and staged philanthropy.
With so many people talking but not actually listening, and users adding anyone and everyone to build up their connections list, it can start to become meaningless. A recent study found that very few LinkedIn users felt their connections were useful in supporting or advancing their careers.
Looking beyond LinkedIn at other online professional networking platforms can help you begin to forge relationships that support and boost your career, whatever stage you’re currently at.
Online profiles and portfolios
Before you begin actively pursuing new professional relationships, it’s worth taking a moment to think about personal brand. This isn’t so much about creating a persona, as simply ensuring you’re portraying the best possible version of yourself online.
Auditing existing profiles and portfolios to check information is up to date and links aren’t broken is a good start, and it’s worth aiming for consistency across platforms in terms of tone and imagery. You might also wish to take the opportunity to check what personal social media profiles you have that are easily searchable. Google your own name, before removing or limiting access to anything that you wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing in a professional setting.
Consider branching out and looking into niche portfolios too. For example, Behance is an ideal way of showcasing work for designers, while about.me is useful for marketing consultants to pull together prominent projects.
Forums and communities
Whilst a platform like LinkedIn has become more about projecting a message, forums and communities are more concerned with two-way conversation.
The emphasis here is on building lasting relationships with like-minded peers with whom you can swap ideas, discuss best practice, and learn from over a number of years. Forums often have much stricter guidelines in place, contributing to a carefully cultivated environment that’s taken time to develop.
Before joining online communities, take a moment to educate yourself on the etiquette of these platforms, such as listening before engaging, avoiding being overly promotional, and acting with caution before sharing controversial opinions.
We’re biased of course, but Guild is ideal for professional groups and communities seeking the ease and intimacy of mobile messaging, but in need of a purpose-built platform for professionals and businesses.
Our professional groups are discoverable for those looking for that, allowing you to tap into the entire Guild community. In particular we’re popular in the professional services industries, allowing individuals to share ideas, knowledge and expertise.
Video conferencing and private networking groups
Whilst networking groups might not be meeting in person, many have moved online, holding regular video calls in their place. Whether you look for one in your local area, niche groups within your industry, or based on demographics such as women-only meet ups, it’s a great way to maintain connections with people even if you can no longer physically be in the same room.
It’s also a great practice to get into with clients, or even other departments within your own company, especially for those more informal interactions that may have slipped over the past year. Scheduling a video call for breakfast, or a quiz with your favourite tipple on a Friday afternoon is a good way to keep these (personal, but professional) relationships alive.
Webinars and roundtables are another great way to chat in a more intimate arena. If you can’t find exactly what you’re looking for, why not hold your own? Prepare some timely topics and points of discussion and reach out to a selection of peers to gauge their interest.
Regardless of which professional networking platforms you turn to build connections, remember that just as with any personal relationship, a professional relationship needs to be nurtured and maintained to keep it going, and to ensure both parties benefit.With social distancing looking to remain in place for some time, using digital platforms to connect with valuable contacts can be just as effective.
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