Learning How To Network Online For Free

Networking is no longer an exact science! It’s time to break free of those awkward conversations with others.

It’s a great feeling to be part of your group, or part of a community, and connecting with new people and gaining skills on a daily basis. “Networking” has become a completely different term. It’s no longer about getting on a room. You can be friendly, then introduce yourself. It’s also about how you develop relationships. Whether you like it or not, you will need to make new ones. Networking doesn’t mean following people to their places of business, but the meetings need to be in a place conducive to other people meeting new people. You could meet at a restaurant, coffee shop, church, or even at your cousin’s swimming pool at Christmas.

Most people are embarrassed to share their schedules with other people. The last thing they want to do is ask for business cards, so they don’t seek these out. They could use the information they get in discussions to choose an appropriate business partner. They might work with your company one day and then they want to get to know you so they can better help you out. Networking can happen in any environment, so why not use online meetings to practice and gain practice?

Networking in the real world is different. It has a different purpose that’s entirely different than using an online meeting. It requires a different time commitment and involves stepping outside of your comfort zone. You could end up spending a lot of time practicing what your real networking skills are. Finding the time to come out and meet people is the hardest part. Making time to meet new people and present yourself in a professional manner is the most important part. They like the new person that you are because they know that you are going to be interested in what they’re interested in. They are looking for someone who can help them get ahead, someone who has a sincere interest in what they are interested in.

The next step is building the relationships. They need to like you. If they like you, they’ll help to form the relationship. You can make that change by staying connected to your members online. You have to read everything they post, like every person you see in real life. They have a personal style and style is important. Most people don’t even know the differences between professional and friend-style networking. “Friend-style” networking (online) isn’t always a relationship builder. It’s more about friendly connections where they ask you for information. They are not taking the time to ask you if they can help you. They are just looking for advice on something and how you can help them in the future. “Professional” networking (online) is more about a network. They want to learn how to be more successful and help you figure out a way to make things happen. While “professional” networking on LinkedIn isn’t a networking venue you can show off your shoes or lay claim to making money, you can connect with professionals and share how you can make it in the business world.

You’re never really far from real life. You spend most of your time on your phone and when you do, you’re bringing it into your workspace. So, if you connect at an online meeting, people might not even notice when you end your meeting early. When you’re in a real conversation, you are telling your work story to a person and they are hearing it for the first time. When your work story is offered up, people just assume you’re sharing your experiences to someone you already know. It’s all about practice and exposure.

Networking isn’t just for job-hunters. Getting involved in your community is a good way to build a foundation of relationships and future contacts. You might have to spend a little more time to develop the relationships, but you can use that time to practice and learn. If it’s not a skill that you already know how to do, you’ll be learning the art, but you might end up changing the way you recruit staff, provide training or expand your operations. Everything is about quality control. Don’t fake it.

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