Building strong business relationships in a virtual world

Building strong business relationships in a virtual world

Question; how many exhibitions were you planning on attending in 2020 before COVID eradicated plans on a global scale? Next question; what was the key driver in you going to these conferences?

Companies that debated if the extortionate cost of a booth space was worth the return on investment, were usually swayed by the uniquely targeted networking opportunity that conferences offer.

Up until last year, the best way to start building connections was through regular attendance at industry-specific networking events. However, when COVID forced people into a digital working space, social media – the peacock of the virtual world – once again fluffed its feathers. Undoubtedly, it has changed the game of building a professional network. Our networks now span farther and more extensively than ever before, allowing us to virtually connect with people we may not yet have met in person, but with whom we potentially have an opportunity to exchange professional value.

This shift has proven to be highly beneficial for job seekers and outplacement candidates. It is commonly understood that referrals and word of mouth are key factors in landing a new role, but it’s not enough to simply exchange business cards or connect on LinkedIn. In order to maximize the value of your connections it is essential that you proactively build, nurture and maintain strong relationships with people in your industry and function.

Here are five steps you can take to boost your profile and build your professional network.

1. Listen to what your network is saying. The newsfeeds of your chosen social platforms are rich with information from your network. This is where you learn about hot topics your network is discussing and stay up to date with any key trends you should be aware of as you navigate a career transition. Build trust and foster collaboration by commenting, reacting, sharing and replying to other commenters.

2. Share knowledge and offer value. Once you’ve started making yourself known it’s important that you keep your connections engaged. One of the best ways to do this is to share relevant content of your own. Share insights about how you work, your thoughts on the industry or the value of your skill set. Try not to ‘sell’ yourself in every post but instead, ask yourself ‘am I adding value to the person reading this?’ Great examples of shareable content include industry reports, research you have found that your network will value, and articles you have read from specialist publications.

3. Be a hub for other connections. If you can facilitate introductions between mutual connections, then you immediately place yourself in a strong position as a connector and someone who provides value to others. You may be connected to people who could prove valuable to others. And, providing a great introduction will motivate the recipient to adopt a similar mindset and make it a habit to do the same. What goes around comes around.

4. Remember your manners. Acknowledge helpful actions of others when they offer you useful information or advice. Remember to thank anyone who endorses you on LinkedIn or other platforms. If someone has offered some advice or introduced you to a great contact that led to a helpful conversation, an interview or career opportunity, continue to build and strengthen your relationship and let them know how things have progressed and show your gratitude.

5. Community over competition. There are two ways to view people in your industry/job role/area of expertise; you can see them as a competitor, or you can build a community with them and bond over your shared interest. They are often in the exact same position as you are—overcoming the same obstacles and learning valuable lessons. Connecting and forming a community with these people (either loosely or through private groups on platforms like WhatsApp, Clubhouse, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook) will be nothing but beneficial for several reasons. Firstly, they’re a source of advice and a community in which to share your experiences. Secondly, each member of the community will have their own connections. These can open doors to reach many more people and job opportunities than you would be able to on your own.

Networking is just the first step. Connecting with these new contacts and building a strong relationship is next level. Nurturing these connections and staying involved in the scene requires constant effort. However, when it comes to making your next career move, do it right and the return on investment will be huge. Collaborating with an Executive Coach provides a great opportunity to broaden your network and also offers the prospect of making new connections with people in your local area.