In this week’s Ask a Trainer guest post, Andy Storch offers tips for how you can use networking to grow your career even in a virtual world.
I am trying to change careers. I’m a subject matter expert who sometimes is asked to train others, and I’d like to move into a full-time talent development or trainer role. I think I’m an effective networker, and in a normal year I’d be going to conferences and industry events to try to network. This year, though, all these events are virtual, and I’m not sure how to transfer my networking approach to a virtual world. Do you have any tips?
You are correct that building a network and developing relationships inside and outside your organization can help you set yourself up for career success. You’re also correct that doing so has become more challenging this year. Most people can’t wander around the office anymore. A lot of times relationships were developed when employees hung out at the water cooler in the office or, even more importantly, went to a sales kickoff event, the annual company conference, or a high-potential training program. At these events employees spent time with others at events like cocktail hours just get to know people and build those contacts that would help them later in their careers.
Since that’s not happening right now, you need to be a lot more intentional about going out and building your network. That means reaching out to people in your company from outside your team that you don’t talk to that much. Maybe you could send an email that says, “We haven't talked in a while. I’d love to know what you're working on. Can we meet for a 20-minute virtual coffee on Thursday and just chat?”
A similar approach can work for people outside of your company. It’s important to build your network, especially for those who aspire to change careers. I always say that if you work in finance but would love to work in HR one day, start reaching out to people who work in HR. Get on LinkedIn, do a search, find people who work in HR or L&D, and start connecting with them. Tell them that you’re thinking about making the move to HR or L&D one day and ask if they’ll get on Zoom or the phone with you so that you can ask some questions and get their advice. People are open to that because people like helping others. You just have to be more intentional about it because we’re not running into each other at conferences.
Yes, networking is more challenging right now, but it’s easy to overcome those challenges. If you want to change your career, it’s never been easier to find a new job, thanks to LinkedIn and social media platforms. You still need to do well in the interview, and there may be more competition right now. But the opportunities are out there. You just got to go out and get them.
Learn more about managing your career from Andy Storch on the ATD Accidental Trainer podcast. His episode aired on November 24.
If you have a question for Ask a Trainer, send it to [email protected]. You can find answers to previous questions by visiting the Ask a Trainer hub. Tim will be back next week to tackle a new question.
We welcome your comments and engagement on these posts. All posts are reviewed to ensure appropriateness based on ATD’s requirements for postings in our online communities.
Please note: Content shared in this column is provided by the author and may not reflect the perspectives of ATD.