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Developing Virtual Relationships for Networking and Job Search Success

With today’s Covid environment, most if not all of your job search has turned to the virtual world limiting your face-to-face interaction and networking. Computers and cell phones are now your primary methods of communication taking the place of in-person meetings.

As such, teleconferencing and online chat platforms such as Zoom, Google Chat and WebEx have become the norm for interviews, conferences and networking meetings. Because much of your search is being conducted electronically, how well you can adapt your relationship-building skills to the virtual world will have a major impact on your success.

So, where do you start? How do you build your network virtually and what is the best way to connect with the people in it? Further, how do you make a great online first impression? In-person, you would shake someone’s hand and look them in the eye with a “nice to meet you.” Your body language cued the person you were listening and interested in what they were saying.

Online, it’s different. Your first impression could be made in a variety of ways: email, virtual meeting, group participation or social media.

Let’s start with LinkedIn – making sure potential connections can find you…and that they want to connect after viewing your profile.

First Things First – Setting the Stage

Ensure your LinkedIn profile is making a great first impression.

Your LinkedIn profile is a condensed version of you and your resume. Populate your profile with the right key words, accomplishments, results, experiences and qualifications for your next desired position. Create a compelling headline about your functional role and areas of expertise especially for what is needed in the current job market. Add sections for volunteer work, recommendations and skills that support your search. Make sure you have a current photo and a cover image that reveals something about your interests or personality. And, always keep the reader in mind when crafting your profile – what do they want to see that will make them connect?

Ask for feedback.

Solicit feedback from a hiring manger or recruiter in your field (ideally a colleague versus someone at your targeted company) asking what they look for when reviewing profiles for the position you are seeking and what would make them want to network with you.

Assess your connections.

Check your LinkedIn contacts to see if you are connecting and following the right people, companies and groups. How many of your #1 connections would be willing to have a virtual networking meeting with you? Do you really know your #2 connections? Who do you want to get to know better and what is the best way to connect with them?

(Note: Followers are different than connections. They follow you because you have something of value to share.)

Building Your Virtual Networking Skills

Now you are ready to increase your visibility and marketability by interacting with your on-line relationships… aka network. You might feel overwhelmed, but if you are limited in face-to-face interaction, how is anyone going to find you? You need to lead them to you.

What I am talking about is… your virtual relationship building or virtual network!

If you are comfortable developing relationships with new people and can easily build rapport and engage in small talk, you might transition into the virtual world with ease. If not, it’s time to brush up on your relationship-building skills.

For those who find difficulty forging new connections, you will benefit from applying a concept I developed and wrote about in my book titled You, You, Me, You The Art of Talking to People, Networking and Building Relationships.

I highlight the importance of building a relationship focusing on the other person and not yourself. So, when you are meeting someone new or engaging with an existing connection, the person you are meeting is the focus. It is about You, more about You, then about Me and then more about You.

We all know people who talk about themselves without asking anything about us. It is Me, Me, Me, Me. Or the person who hijacks your conversation once you start telling a story and suddenly it becomes their story. You, Me, Me and maybe You. How about the limited listener whose eyes are everywhere else than looking at you? Do these people sound familiar? Learn how to handle these delicate situations because you might meet these people as you expand your virtual network.

Ready to Connect

Building virtual relationships is a needed skill for job seekers (and, frankly, everyone nowadays), so focus on the quality not the quantity of your existing and new connections.

Inviting people to connect.
On LinkedIn, don’t just click to add a connection. Add a personal note as to why you want to connect. Use my You, You, Me, You approach.

Hello _________, You have a very impressive background in ______ where I have great interest. I know ______one of your #1 connections. I would welcome the chance to be a #1 as well. Congrats on your accomplishments!”

Being part of the conversation.
Comment daily on posts in your various social networks and make sure you tag the person you are responding to. If you’re not sure how, use the @ sign and start typing in the person’s name. Your social network will fill in the rest. The comments do not have to be profound, but should be on point.

“@Jayne Mattson, what a great topic and timely too!” “@JohnSmith, something I didn’t know, thanks for sharing!”

Remember, you are creating visibility and building relationships takes time.

Sharing content.
Share content with your online networks that is reflective of your thought leadership, career experience, interests or the type of role you are looking to land. If you are resharing, tag the person who first posted it, or alternatively, send the link with a note to other contacts.

“This great article by @____ is worthwhile to read especially if ____________.”

Being part of your communities.
Join groups and participate in the discussions by offering additional advice. LinkedIn, Facebook and Reddit are great places to look for virtual groups covering a wide variety of topics. Once you’ve joined, share relevant content and comment on posts by others:

“Andy, I really like point #2 in your article about ____________. I have found that_______________. Great advice as always.”

Remember to always make sure you are adding value to the groups and keep the focus on the other people and not you.

Helping others.
Respond to requests for information or advice. Be generous with your time helping others. On LinkedIn (mobile version only), use the “Ask an Expert” feature to further your networking and connections.

Asking to meet – virtually.
Once you’ve made a new connection and established some rapport, ask for a virtual networking meeting. And, after connecting, don’t forget to send a thank you note!

“Hi Joe, I hope you are doing well in your business. How is the family? I am in a career transition and would love your advice on the list of companies I am targeting. You were one of the first people I thought of since you are so well connected in our industry. Would you be willing to set up a call over the next couple of weeks? All my best to you and Susan.”

Relationship building is a key to your professional success. In job searching, you want to be remembered, so when an opportunity comes up with the people you’ve met, they will think of YOU!


Jayne Mattson is the author of You, You, Me, You: The Art of Talking to People, Networking and Building Relationships. She is a Certified Career Management Consultant and Founder of JayneMattson.com, through which she supports early to mid-career professionals who want to take charge of their careers. You can reach her at jaynemattson.com or jayne@jaynemattson.com.

Photo credit: Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

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