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How to Network with Anyone on the Internet

Your network determines your level of success and your ability to find a better job, pivot your career or find clients. The bigger and stronger your online network is the more likely you are to be successful in whatever endeavour you choose and the more resilient you become to any change that presents itself.

Unfortunately, almost everyone thinks about their network only when they need something. Networking like this comes from a place of desperate scarcity, short-term thinking, and self-focus. This mindset leads to either asking for immediate opportunities or asking for help without good relationship building.

Both are destined to get low response rates.

Why?

Because you're coming at them from one point in time. This is like a dot on a graph and people like to see lines are a series of connected points in time. Relationships are lines, they're not dots. They're not about you, and they must be mutually beneficial.

Think about the math behind these approaches. How likely is it that anyone you need to is going to have an opportunity for you at some random point in time? Any one day is 0.2% of a full year. So not very likely. 

Next, employers who are hiring would be inundated with people asking them questions.

For example, if I have 300 applicants across one job advert, and I have four of them running at the same time. In total there would be 1200 applicants. If 40% of those candidates would be messaging through LinkedIn and asking for a call, I’d be saying yes to a 15-minute call which would mean spending 120 hours on Zoom. That’s 15 working days (3 weeks).

Here's a better way

First, start by presenting yourself in a clear and compelling fashion. Give people a reason to be interested in you. The easiest way to do that is to create a clear and compelling LinkedIn profile. Like it or not, this is the first-place people go and they think first place people think to go for people who don't know you to get more information about you. 

  1. Select the banner image and make it represent who you are. Mine here says resilience is brilliant because I like talking about resilience. 
  2. Pick a nice headshot and make sure it's up-to-date and professional looking. 
  3. Your bio. What can someone expect? Why should they consider meeting you? And your “about me” section there should be a description that provides deeper context on who you are as a person and avoids buzzwords, like passionate.
  4. Link to your website or another resource that can tell people more about you. glance over your own social profile and ask yourself if you came across my own profile. Would it be clear what I do?

Secondly, create a value-driven long-term relationship approach when you reach out to someone. How can you differentiate yourself? Stop asking what they can do for you and ask what you can do for them. That's a value. You need an approach that is focused on providing value upfront without the expectation of immediate return. So here are some ways to give value to someone you don't know and give them a relevant or specific compliment.

  1. Reach out and tell the person you're trying to target something that they've done that you specifically enjoy. If you'd like to specific LinkedIn post project, podcast or article, tell them why you liked it and what impact it's had on you. 
  2. Give them a soft out. IE “no need to reply. Just wanted to share how it impacted me.” 
  3. Next, show your support and tag them so they know you can write a post about the person sharing their content and your newsletter or figure out what they care about and support that. Engage with a person's content on LinkedIn and reply and share. 
  4. Do it meaningfully. Introduce them to a meaningful connection. You all know people, the person you're trying to connect to knows people. If you can make a meaningful connection that improves their life is going to be a lot better for them. The most powerful way to build a relationship is to connect to people who can help one another.