No matter what new technology or trends take over your industry, you can always count on one thing to help you succeed: your relationships with people.
You don't need to force yourself to smile and be cool in stuffy, uncomfortable networking events to do that. Relationship-building is so much more than surface-level schmoozing over cheese cubes and cheap champagne in plastic flutes. Effective networking can open the door to opportunities you may never have considered before; you just need to do what you can to be helpful, earn trust, and focus on building better relationships.
Now, this isn't to say you have to remove all modern tech to accomplish that. Whether you're looking to grow your business, hire new employees, or get your foot in the door to a new career opportunity of your own, you can use technology to kickstart those relationships. To help, here are four tools and platforms to help you network your way into new opportunity in your career:
What networking list would be complete without LinkedIn? This social network for professionals is a natural, valuable place to start when you're looking to build your contacts, hire employees, or find out who's hiring.
To make the most of the platform, it's a mix of leveraging who you already know and who you want to know. Kindly ask your closest, warmest contacts to drop a recommendation or endorsement on your profile. Join LinkedIn Groups. Reach out to influential people in your space who you'd like to know and offer them a coffee in exchange for some time and insights. As long as you approach it with a helpful mindset and are authentic, I've found that most people are willing to return that sentiment and help you, too.
And remember, your professional brand and online presence have made their way into interviews right alongside your traditional résumé, so use this platform to build your brand. Engage with industry influencers, contribute content to LinkedIn, and stay in touch with current and former colleagues.
2. Purple Squirrel
In the same way LinkedIn gives you the chance to connect with people you want to know, Purple Squirrel gives job seekers access to people inside their dream company.
What's unique about this platform is that a connection is practically guaranteed, as these internal advocates are on Purple Squirrel because they want to openly offer up their time to potential new hires for advice on interviews, résumés, and, if all goes well, an intro to the company through that employee's referral. Of the messages sent on Purple Squirrel from job seekers to advocates, 85 percent are answered, compared to lower response rates on LinkedIn InMail or through direct email outreach.
This gives everyone equal opportunities to network, whether you already have a lot of people in your professional circle or not; you just pay a nominal fee set by the advocate. By leveraging a platform like this, you get the opportunity to break through the noise of the hundreds of people applying through job boards by connecting directly with a potential co-worker.
Meetup's goal is simple: Bring people together to do and discuss the things they love. Meetup empowers likeminded people to get together to learn, explore, play, and more, so if you're looking to expand your network or learn more about an industry, don't overlook the benefits of connecting with people while engaging in a shared interest. These interactions are low-pressure, genuine, and a sure way to establish a meaningful connection.
Continued learning and being a good culture fit are increasingly important, both to leaders and employees. Engaging with people in these authentic, out-of-work situations and doing things you love can help you learn and demonstrate your fit within a culture. Put yourself out there, commit to a few Meetups, and attend similar ones consistently to become top of mid with other members in your groups who could help you connect to your next big opportunity.
4. Public Groups on Slack and Facebook
Similar to Meetups, Facebook and Slack make it pretty easy to find and connect with future employers, employees, and partnerships. The benefit here is that you're not restricted by your geographic location, so this is great for people looking to tap into a new market for their next opportunity.
Plus, there's always value in connecting with people where they already are, and chances are that Facebook and Slack are two of those places. Unlike more formal networking sites like LinkedIn that you may only check a few times a week, most of us check Facebook more frequently to stay connected more personally. Search these platforms for groups that interest you both personally and professionally, and dive in.
People tend to think of networking with a narrow, traditional view of some business leaders standing around a room with name tags, asking others what they thought of that last speaker at their event. Networking can happen in these settings; I've personally seen some success in just being personable and helpful with people at in-person events. But there are plenty of tools out there to give you a boost and make those connections faster, and these four are a good place to start.