Online networking can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Approach it with generosity, and watch your network grow.
Picture yourself at a business networking event – the room buzzing with people. Where would we find you?
Are you working the room, having interesting conversations? Or maybe you’re lurking in the corner, hoping people will come to you.
In any case, there won’t be in-person events for a while – which means it’s time to step up your virtual networking.
You’ve probably heard the phrase: “Your network determines your net worth.” The right people can have a huge influence on your future.
But a great network won’t just come to you. So if you’re a digital wallflower, it’s time to leave the corner and join the party.
Build your personal brand
The best way to build a strong network is being helpful.
If you post useful, interesting information, you can positively influence the way you’re perceived.
To put it another way, it allows you to build your personal brand.
But what does that actually mean? Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, is credited with saying: “Personal branding is the story people tell about you when you’re not in the room.”
Why is it important to build your personal brand? In short, future opportunities, says Andy Moore, Digital Marketing Manager at Procurious.
“Social media has become a staple in society,” Moore says. “And in the world of getting hired, having an online profile has become essential in the last few years.
“So it’s important for professionals to first understand the ‘why’ of building their personal brand – it can help with future connections and can generate better leads.”
But where do you start, especially if you haven’t done much networking online?
It’s as easy as posting an article you find interesting. Or sharing your opinion on an industry hot topic. Or asking your network’s opinions.
The important thing is to show up consistently and make a contribution, Moore adds.
“People want to hang out with the ‘life of the party,’” says Moore. “This is the same for social media. People want to be connected with those who have a voice and get involved.”
That includes liking, sharing, and commenting on other people’s posts. Everyone loves a bit of validation, and your network will appreciate your support.
Keep in mind that a strong digital network won’t happen overnight, especially if you don’t have much of an online presence right now.
Like any other relationship, networks require consistency over time.
But it’s worth the effort, says Mark Holyoake, Managing Director of supply chain recruitment firm Holyoake Search.
“I’ve long been a proponent of personal branding,” Holyoake says. “Technology has made this easier than ever, and with conferences and networking opportunities still all virtual for the time being, it has never been more important.”
You get what you put in
Your success at building your online network will largely depend on your attitude.
After all, few things kill a relationship quicker than self-centredness. So don’t view your network as a group of people who only exist to get you a job.
Instead, approach them as a worthwhile group of your colleagues and peers. What would they like to know from you? What is interesting to them? What can you share that will make their lives better or easier?
Likewise, think of people in your network that you could introduce to each other, knowing that both will benefit from the connection.
There are lots of ways to add value to your network.
Where to network
There are plenty of social platforms to choose from. Where should you invest your time? The simple answer is where your professional associations hang out.
And you don’t need to be on every platform. Why put time into building an Instagram profile when your network spends all their time on LinkedIn?
You should also join and contribute to online groups that are specific to your professional interests.
Procurious is a great example of this, where you can find groups dedicated to any aspect of procurement.
CPOs in Scotland, supply chain sustainability, and Indian procurement professionals – you name it. And don’t worry if you can’t find your tribe. Just start your own group!
There are 40,000 procurement professionals from all over the world on Procurious, and they want to build their networks too.
So get involved in the groups and the discussion boards. You’ve got answers and experience that people are looking for right now.
For example, can you help out this Procurious member? They want advice on getting internal stakeholders to bring procurement in earlier during the IT purchasing process.
Who knows where your connections could lead? If you come ready to give, you’ll be surprised how much you receive over time.
You can do this
It doesn’t matter if you usually lurk in the corner at networking events. Or if the word ‘networking’ makes you break out in hives.
You were built to network.
That’s because you’re already a natural at creating partnerships across supply chains and stakeholders, says Tania Seary, Founder of Procurious.
“Procurement professionals are united by the need to be agile, to be savvy, to be bold,” Seary says. “We can do that alone, but we can do it even better by reaching out to colleagues and contacts to fill the gaps.”
Networking is about watering the seeds of possibility, nurturing existing relationships, and growing the best you can from each encounter, Seary adds.
Need more encouragement? Check out Tania Seary’s two-minute pep talk on networking in procurement