If one thing is certain during this challenging year, it’s that we need support from others – and, in return, others need support from us.
Networking is an excellent way to achieve your goals and support the interests of others, 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 less stuffy and more exciting.
As an insurance or benefit broker, you’re not new to networking, since it’s the industry’s heart and soul, but navigating it in a Covid world may present unforeseen challenges.
Gone are the days, at least for now, when you could easily attend an in-person professional networking event or happy hour and introduce yourself by shaking someone’s hand. With this in mind, your networking strategy will have to shift, just like our entire professional lives have.
Thankfully, in our technological world, there are still many methods you can use to connect with others.
1. Use Linkedin right
If you’re like many people, you have a LinkedIn account but don’t use it to its full potential.
This is the perfect time to change that. LinkedIn is a powerful tool that has become even more crucial during Covid. 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. For example, maybe you came across their comment on a post in a group you’re both members of; if so, that connection opens the door to follow up with them and ask for further advice on a topic.
Finding those opportunities can be simple; try 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.
- Follow relevant hashtags in your industry to find others in your field.
PRO TIP: If you aren’t using LinkedIn’s alumni tool, meet your new favorite LinkedIn hack. For example, let’s say you attended the University of Arizona (or are just a passionate fan). You can use the alumni tool to quickly find everyone on LinkedIn who was also a student, providing you with an easy conversation starter and relationship builder.
To access the alumni tool, just go to any college’s LinkedIn page and access the “alumni” tab. From there, search individuals by location, industry, company, college major, and more.
2. Build relationships by connecting strategically
It can be hard to meet new people and open yourself up to the possibility of rejection. Still, good relationships can never be established if you don’t try! Start by reframing how you view networking and think of it as a way to build new friendships or mentor relationships.
Psychologically, it’s so much easier to trust people when you have mutual interests or connections, especially in the virtual world.
Have you ever met someone only to find out you have a mutual friend?
After discovering this, you start to trust the person more because you know your friend trusts them. The same goes for networking: If you have a similar background, grew up in the same town, or follow the same sports team, those similarities are a starting point for good connections and a reason to reach out to someone.
Consider connecting with people strategically by finding common ground and mentioning your similarities when you initially reach out.
3. Always be concise & make a specific ask
If you don’t tell someone why you’re connecting with them on LinkedIn, even if you have a mutual interest or connection, they’ll be less likely to respond.
I love it when people tell me specifically why they’re reaching out and what they want from me because I don’t have time to guess; and chances are, your connections don’t either.
In your initial connection note, consider asking the person right away for a quick meeting or virtual coffee chat.
Most people are now used to being in virtual meetings all day, so another quick meeting shouldn’t be a big request. Also, since most people are working from home, they might have more flexibility in their schedules now than they did 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 got to the point right away, as we scheduled 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’re connecting with colleagues or potential clients, and you’ll make it easy for them to follow through with what you’re asking of them.
INTRO TEMPLATES YOU CAN USE RIGHT NOW:
I noticed that you’re also an alumnus of the University of Arizona (Go Wildcats!) and that you’re currently working as an insurance broker. Do you have 15 minutes for a quick Zoom call? I’d love to learn about how your strategies have changed during Covid.
Please let me know.
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 and 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
There are many ways to network during Covid: Attending virtual conferences, panels, or meet up events are just a few examples. If you go to a virtual conference, create some goals for yourself to make sure you get the most out of the experience, such as connecting with three individuals after the conference.
The same principles that can help you on LinkedIn are also relevant in essentially all virtual settings. Use them to your advantage!
I recently attended a virtual global conference and noticed someone on a session who seemed to have things in common with me: She was also a young professional, and her role was similar to mine. I thought she would be a great person to connect with; and, as it turns out, she was.
After I contacted her, she set up a meeting for us, and I built a relationship with her pretty quickly; now we have a great connection and frequently bounce work ideas off each other!
- Reframe how you think about networking. Remember that reaching out to people can help you build mutually-beneficial connections – it doesn’t have to be uncomfortable or one-sided.
- If used correctly, LinkedIn is a powerful tool that can yield big results.
- In your initial messages with prospective connections, find common ground and use it to build rapport.
- Get to the point and make your intentions clear from the start.
- Finally, broaden the scope of your networking opportunities; that way, you’ll increase the number of interesting connections you might meet.
While this article may make networking seem easy, we all know it takes a lot of work and that every experience isn’t always positive. People are all different: Sometimes you’ll connect easily with someone, and sometimes you won’t.
If someone isn’t responding, or if you aren’t having a fruitful conversation, move on. Don’t dwell on the negative; instead, find the people who will be champions of your success, whether they be future clients or colleagues in your industry.
If there’s one positive thing to take from this pandemic experience, it’s that people are proving that they are highly adaptable. From working at home to being in virtual meetings all day, industries and professionals can adjust. Along those same lines, with frequent practice and persistence, you will also be able to establish your virtual networking rhythm to achieve your goals!
Sadie Guzman is a Corporate Recruiter and has over seven years of experience supporting job seekers to achieve their career goals. She is passionate about hiring trends, recruiting best practices, and demystifying job search myths. She considers herself an advocate for those seeking employment. In her free time, Sadie loves traveling, spending time with her husband and Pomeranian, and playing in an adult kickball league!
Connect with Sadie on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sadieguzman/