There’s no question that we live in a hyper-digital age. For most of us, our phones hardly stray more than two feet from us from the moment we groggily role over in the morning and turn off our alarm to the time we crawl into bed and plug it in on the nightstand next to our pillow. Our days are consumed with newsfeeds and social handles and at times it can be difficult to remember whether we actually know someone we follow IRL, or if it just feels that way because we’re aware of their every move.
Because of this digital life so many of us lead, it can seem like there’s no longer a need to venture out into the real world and go meet people the old fashion way. Why bother going to a networking event when you can literally connect with almost anyone on the planet at the tap of a screen? The reality is that although you can connect online with people you’d like to add to your network, there’s no substitute for the experience of meeting a new person face-to-face. That’s not to say that the internet doesn’t have a role to play; it absolutely does. When you combine the power of IRL + digital, you’re able to create lasting connections that live on well beyond a business card exchange.
Here are 5 ways that you can incorporate a human element to a digital world to grow your network:
Don’t rely solely on the internet, IRL still really matters.
Although it’s super tempting to sit back and click “connect” with someone you’re interested in meeting on LinkedIn, the likelihood of you building a lasting, mutually-beneficial relationship relying on a digital connection alone is low. Instead, leverage the power of the internet to find IRL events and opportunities to meet people face-to-face, THEN connect with them online.
Know your goals then go to where your people are
Attending a ton of “networking” events isn’t the best use of anyone’s time. Instead, think about who you’re hoping to connect with and go to events/workshops/gatherings where those people are likely to be. For example, if you’re hoping to get a new job in the Fashion industry, look for panels and events put on by fashion-specific groups. If you’re looking to get into photography, attend events where people who would want to hire you will be, like a panel on managing your personal brand (aspiring Instagram influencers need great photos of themselves!)
Find your overlap
When you meet someone for the first time, look for something you share in common. Start by asking them, “What brings you here tonight?” instead of the old, “What do you do?” That will open the conversation by letting them talk about what they want to instead of being forced to talk about a job they may not be super into. It’s likely that they came there for a reason similar to you, so this will automatically give you two something to talk about. Additional questions you can ask are around where they’re from, where they went to school, etc. If you can find a common thread between you two, they’re way more likely to remember your interaction among the many they may have at that gathering.
Help them, help you
If you’re going to spend time networking both online and IRL, make it super easy for your new potential connections to connect with you. One of the things most people fail at when it comes to networking is the follow-up. Instead of relying on the old business card swap, try using an app like Ping, a way to exchange digital business cards. With the use of that app, your contact info is automatically shared with them via email which makes the follow-up WAY easier on both of you.
You’ll also want to make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date so that when you connect there (which you absolutely should), they don’t see a fuzzy, outdated photo with information that’s 5 years old.
Nurture the relationship
Once you’ve made a new connection, followed-up via email, and connected with them on LinkedIn, the relationship officially begins. There’s no reason to put time and effort into growing your network if you don’t continue to nurture the relationship going forward. Find reasons to reach out and stay in touch, especially when you don’t have an “ask” for them. If they share an interesting article on LinkedIn or Twitter, comment on it. If you see that they’ve gotten a new job, send them an email saying congratulations. If they post that they’re in need of a connection to a company, see if you can help connect those dots. By finding ways to stay top of mind (without being creepy!) you’ll solidify yourself in their minds as someone to reach out to when they have opportunities for you.
The entire point of growing your network, or “curating your community” as I prefer to call it, is to find new humans who you have something in common with to collaborate with and support throughout your career. Nobody achieves anything great alone, so look for ways that you might be able to leverage your network to achieve your goals today.
Find these tips helpful? Want more career advice from this natural-born connector? Read more about Baily below.
Baily Hancock is a Collaboration Consultant and Career Happiness Strategist who teaches people how to collaborate with their community to achieve their goals, whether that’s making a career change or growing their business. Her 10-week online course, “The 1-Year Career” (next cohort begins July 9th!) helps people figure out how to make big moves with small steps in their career, and on her podcast, “The Baily Hancock Show” she interviews people who have done just that.