networking online 2020

Looking for a job in 2020 is complicated. In an oversaturated market, traditional click-and-apply job search strategies are becoming less effective. Not only are you often competing with hundreds of other applicants and internal referrals, ATS (Applicant Tracking Systems) can also weed out up to 70% of resumes before they reach a human eye. Coupling this with estimates that up to 80% of jobs are not even advertised online – scanning LinkedIn or Indeed is far cheaper than buying advertising space – means it is harder than ever to get on the radar of hiring managers in your dream company! 

To successfully navigate this new world of job hunting, it is crucial to leverage your network to help you find your next role. Many employers also look to sources outside of your resume to calibrate on technical and cultural fit, cross-referencing with your social platform profiles, and conducting informal references with known peers. Developing, and more importantly maintaining, a network of peers, mentors and both past and future colleagues will help position yourself as a reputable and knowledgeable expert in your field, securing the attention of hiring managers and encouraging them to come to you.

Within the context of the pandemic (thanks COVID-19!), it is becoming apparent that we must double-down on our networking efforts while pivoting our approach to optimizing online resources, not only for the immediate preservation of our relationships but also to nurture our future successes. Every email, every text, zoom call and JCI (‘just checking in’) will make a difference. How we ‘show up’ and how we make people feel in times of turbulence will have lasting effects long after we return to normalcy. Here is how to make networking work for you, even if we are living in a virtual world.

Be visible

Half of online networking is down to just being visible. The online platforms you use to promote your skills are your calling cards in the virtual world. Whether it is LinkedIn, Meetup, Bark or any other alternative networking sites, your profile should reflect your skills, experience, goals, and personality. Additionally, your profile should be easily searchable – ensure your profile is search optimized by including relevant buzzwords applicable to the job you want. 

Take this a step further and build your presence and reputation by engaging with content shared by other users. Strategic engagement with targeted content is like drip-feeding hiring managers information about yourself. The key to online engagement is to always offer something more than just information about yourself – what added value can you offer, be it market information, thought-provoking opinion or a new way to look at a shared problem?

Ways to be visible:

  • Use LinkedIn groups to ask questions, share articles and discuss current topics
  • Comment on your connections posts, adding a short opinion/ thought of your own. 
  • Tag other users and ask for their thoughts on particular topics.
  • Share useful information from reputable sources. 

Be mindful, Be memorable

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. – Maya Angelou

One way to immediately stunt your networking efforts is to make it all about you.  Networking is the act of creating meaningful connections that make an impression so that once you are out of sight, you are not out of mind. 

Creating meaningful connections develops bonds between parties that will last long after you have exchanged personal information. Although it is harder to do this online it is not impossible – look at the online dating world and how much even the most complex of human emotions can develop in a virtual world. All it takes is careful curation of conversation, openness to diversity, and a balanced discussion of opinion. Easy right?! 

What not to do:

  • Promoting your own opinion with little or no openness to discussion
  • Engaging aggressively with people of opposing views just to be heard
  • Showing no interest in the other person – make them feel special and they will return the favour!
  • Giving up if you don’t get engagement immediately – building a bond with your audience takes time and perseverance.

It is also important to be mindful of aggressive tactics in the modern era. The old sales mantra “Always be Closing” is a stale representation of what works in the market today, and particularly in uncertain times like the Covid-19 pandemic or an economic recession. Studies have shown that brand awareness, lead generation, and consistent follow-up is far more effective at building returning clients than cold calling 100 people a day and even more effective when coupled with Being Human.

Some groups that conduct mindful networking sessions online are Soulwell Collective, Fuck up Nights, and Meetup which now offer online alternatives to meeting in person. 

Be connected and be organized

In a virtual world, where the social cues we take for granted (body language, energy, etc) are removed, making and maintaining soulful connections is a challenge. What makes it harder is poor access to infrastructure – sketchy wifi, choppy audio, poor video resolution for example. Additionally, the greatest plan is often derailed by poor execution. Keeping yourself connected and accountable to your schedule is crucial to feeling successful. 

Use tech to your advantage

Invest in some good hardware (laptop, mic and webcam) and test out the various conferencing tools (Zoom, Google Meets, Microsoft teams) to see which one suits you best. 

Share your schedule.

Apps like Calendly, G Suite and others allow you to share your calendar with potential connections letting them choose a time that suits you both. This takes the back-and-forth out of scheduling and allowing more time for real conversation. Make sure to carve out some networking time every day, make it a defined 1-2 hours and stick to it. 

Prioritize your meetings 

Don’t be afraid to shift around meetings if you suddenly find that the CFO from your dream company has agreed to a virtual coffee. Prioritising your meetings using the “Closest to the Goal” mentality will help you get better results and more fruitful connections. But, do remember to follow through any meetings you have rescheduled, no one likes a flake! 

Lastly

It doesn’t have to all be about business! Some of the best connections I have made came from connecting as friends first. Although hanging out playing pool or meeting at a park picnic seems a long way off right now, many groups are getting creative with online events like table quizzes (I am top of our family league right now!), playing games over zoom (I recommend Quiplash and a few beers) and even making dinner together over skype (check out Chef and the Dish). This is a great time to reconnect with old colleagues and friends in an informal way, re-forming bonds that will last far longer than any pandemic 

About the Author

Aoife Kernan

Aoife Kernan is a specialist Interim and Project recruiter in the Accounting and Finance industry. She specializes in developing and nurturing relationships with Accounting across various industries. When not in the office she can be found exploring what nature has to offer across Canada.


Clarity is a Finance and Accounting recruitment agency in Toronto and Vancouver offering Permanent, Project & Interim Staffing and Executive Search, with a focus in start-up and scale-up companies.

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