If one thing is certain during this very challenging year, we need support from others and readily offer it in return.
Networking is an excellent way to achieve your goals and support others’ interests, ultimately developing lasting, mutually beneficial relationships.
We often think of networking as daunting or uncomfortable because we typically only reach out when we want something from someone. But, when you frame networking as a way to build relationships and mutual support, it makes the idea of networking less stuffy and more exciting!
As an insurance or benefit broker, you‘re not new to networking, as it is the industry’s heart and soul, but navigating it in a COVID world may be a little bit uncertain.
Gone are the days, at least for now, where you could attend an in-person professional networking event or happy hour and easily introduce yourself by shaking someone’s hand. With this in mind, your networking strategy will have to shift, just like our entire professional lives.
Thankfully, in a technological world, there are many methods you can use to connect.
1. Use Linkedin Right
If you are like many people, you have a LinkedIn but don’t utilize it to its full capacity.
LinkedIn is a powerful tool that has become even more crucial during the COVID era. You can use LinkedIn to your advantage during this time to establish relationships and keep in touch with your current colleagues and clients.
With work-from-home becoming more common, people are more engaged virtually, especially on LinkedIn. You can scroll through your feed and see your connections asking for help and advice about a variety of significant life changes, ranging from losing a job to starting a business. These posts can generate hundreds of comments of support!
The same can go for your networking strategy; reaching out for help can allow you to achieve your career goals.
Think about how you can connect with others for advice before asking for something from them right away. Maybe you came across their comment on a post in a group where you are both members. That opens the door to follow up with them and ask for further advice on the topic.
Finding those opportunities can be simple by pursuing a few different avenues:
- Join groups and engage in discussions. Is there a sizeable professional association in your field? Become a member and actively dive into conversations!
- Comment on posts and follow up with a connection note or
- Follow relevant hashtags in your industry to find others in your field.
PRO TIP: If you aren’t utilizing LinkedIn’s alumni tool, meet your new favorite LinkedIn hack. Let’s say you attended the University of Arizona or are just a passionate fan. You can utilize the alumni tool to quickly find everyone on LinkedIn who were also students, providing you an easy conversation starter and relationship builder.
To access the alumni tool, you just need to go to any college’s LinkedIn page and access the “alumni“ tab. From there, you can search individuals by location across the globe, industry, company, major, and more!
2. Build Relationships by Connecting Strategically
It can be hard meeting new people and opening ourselves up to rejection. Still, good relationships can never be established if you don’t try! Start by reframing networking and think of it as a means to build new friendships or mentor relationships.
Psychologically, it makes it so much easier to trust people when we have mutual interests or connections, especially in a virtual world.
Have you ever met someone, and you found out you had a mutual friend?
After discovering this, you start to trust the person more because you know that your friend trusts them. The same goes for networking. If you have a similar background, grew up in the same location, or follow the same sports team, that is a starting point and a reason why you might reach out to someone.
Consider connecting with people strategically by finding common ground and including that in the introduction when you reach out on LinkedIn or other virtual platforms.
3. Always Be Concise & Make a Specific Ask
Even with a mutual interest or connection, if you don’t tell someone why you are connecting with them on LinkedIn, they are less likely to respond.
Make sure to write a note in your initial connection explaining why you are reaching out. I love it when people specifically tell me why they are reaching out and what they want from me immediately.
I don’t have time to guess, and chances are your connections won’t either. Consider asking the person right away for a quick meeting or virtual coffee chat in your initial connection note.
Most people are now used to being on virtual meetings all day, so another quick meeting shouldn’t be a big ask. Additionally, since most people are working from home, they have more flexibility in their schedules than at the office.
I recently accepted a connection request from someone on LinkedIn and had a quick Zoom call with him about a free product he provides to college students.
I accepted his connection request and agreed to the meeting because of these critical factors:
- He made it clear in the beginning what he wanted
- He got to the point right away as we were scheduling the call within two messages
- We had mutual connections
- He provided something that was of value to me (he knew his audience)
Follow these guidelines when you are connecting with colleagues or potential clients, and you will make it easy for them to follow through with what you are asking of them!
INTRO TEMPLATES YOU CAN USE RIGHT NOW:
I saw that you are also an alumnus of the University of Arizona (Go Wildcats!) and are currently working as an insurance broker. I was wondering if you had 15 minutes for a quick Zoom call to learn about how your strategies have changed during this time.
I saw that you are also connected to my friend Samir, and he told me that the two of you grew up together, what a small world! I was wondering if you would be willing to speak with me about what you like about your current insurance provider or if you are open to looking elsewhere for other options.
Please let me know if you are free this week to chat!
4. Maximize Virtual Opportunities
Finally, there are many other ways to network in a COVID world. For example, attending virtual conferences, panels, or meet up events. If you go to a virtual conference, create some goals for yourself, such as connecting with three individuals after the conference.
These same principles that can help you on Linkedin hold up in essentially all virtual settings. Use them!
I recently attended a virtual, global conference and noticed someone on a session that had a similar role to me and was also a young professional. I thought she would be an easy person to initially connect with, and it turns out she was!
After I connected with her, she set up a meeting for us. I built a relationship with her pretty quickly in this initial meeting, and now we have a great connection where we frequently bounce work ideas off of each other!
- Reframe networking in your mind
- Linkedin is a powerful tool that can yield big results if you use it correctly
- Find common ground and act on it!
- Get to the point and make your intentions clear
- Broaden the scope of your networking opportunities
While this blog may make networking seem easy, we all know it takes a lot of work and that every experience isn’t always positive. The thing about building relationships is that you connect with some people easily, while with others you never establish a connection.
If someone isn’t responding or if you aren’t having a fruitful conversation, move on. Don’t dwell on the negative, and instead, find the people who will be champions for your success, whether it is future clients or colleagues in your industry!
If we take anything positive from this pandemic experience, it is that we are very adaptable. From working at home to being on virtual meetings all day, industries and professionals can adjust easily. Along those same lines, with more frequent practice and persistence, you will quickly be able to establish your virtually networking rhythm to achieve your goals!
Sadie Randall has over 7 years of experience in the career services field, supporting job seekers to achieve their career goals. She is passionate about hiring trends, recruiting best practices, and demystifying job search myths, and considers herself an advocate for those seeking employment. She currently serves as the Assistant Director for MIS Career Management in the Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona, where she advises graduate students on all aspects of career development and connects employers, alumni, and students. In her free time, Sadie loves traveling, spending time with her fiancé and Pomeranian, and playing in an adult kickball league!
Connect with Sadie on LinkedIn here: linkedin.com/in/sadierandall/