“Groups also are a great way to start dipping your toe in the water,” she says. “If you’re already nervous about networking in person, start joining some groups on LinkedIn. You might be surprised to learn there’s a working mother’s group, or a green tech group.”
Even if the group isn’t directly related to your current industry, if you’re passionate about it, join up, Canfield advises.
“Find people on your common ground,” she says. “Pay attention to the discussions and then start getting involved in those groups, too.”
Pagkalinawan suggests that you stay active and follow up on potential contacts.
“When I go to conferences, every single card I receive from that conference, I contact on LinkedIn,” she says. “I know I’m going to lose the cards, and I know people are going to switch jobs, but I want to stay in touch with them.”
And don’t be afraid to let your connections know what you’re up to.
“People actually read your updates, whether or not you think they are mundane or relevant or professional,” she says, pointing to a recent example where she posted that she was in London. A client saw the post, and they ended up meeting for dinner.
“It gave us a different time and setting to connect and talk about business,” she says. “It also gave me the chance to meet some of their colleagues and have access to a different area of their business that I never had been acquainted with before.”
If you’re heading back into the workforce after taking time off to raise a family, or are looking to switch careers, be sure to tout your skills, Pagkalinawan advises.
“Whether you were the head of the PTA or you organized your daughter’s soccer games, it’s all relevant and shows you’ve been active doing things that might be relevant to your next job,” she says.
If you’re starting blank, Pagkalinawan recommends looking up companies you want to work for and beginning to connect there.
“Why not hit the actual boss you want to work for, or the HR department for your ideal company?” she says. “That’s much better than in the ’80s or ’90s, where you had to write 50 résumés and mail each of them out with a cover letter and wait passively for a response.”
What not to do? Don’t wait until you’re actually searching for a new job to start networking, Williams says.
“These are connections you can make that will enhance your job,” she says. “Networking online is not so different than networking in person.”
And be proactive, Canfield says.
“The biggest faux pas is to be a gimme-gimme networker,” she says. “Pay attention to status updates in your field. Offer to lend a helping hand. Those are the sorts of things that will really help add value to the people you’re connecting to.”