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Ask a Trainer: How Can I Network Virtually?

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

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.

Dear Andy,

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.

About the Author

Andy Storch is an author, consultant, coach, speaker and facilitator specializing in helping clients turn strategy into action and people doing the best work of their lives. Andy’s purpose is to love and support his family and to impact the world by inspiring people to stop drifting, take control and live life with intention.

Andy is also the host of two podcasts, including The Talent Development Hot Seat and Andy Storch Show, and the co-founder and host of The Talent Development Think Tank Conference and Community. Andy is also the author of the upcoming book, Own Your Career Own Your Life, to be published in September, 2020.

Andy has taught strategy, sales, leadership, finance, and innovation to business leaders all over the world including companies like, Oracle, Google, Box, Toyota, State Farm, Red Bull, Deloitte, EY, KPMG, HP, Sony, Bechtel, Cisco, Tiffany & Co and others.

Andy is a partner with Advantage Performance Group. He holds an MBA from the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business where he served as president of the MBA program in 2008 and a BS from the University of Florida (Go Gators!)

Most importantly, Andy is a husband, father and friend who is on a mission to get the absolute most out of life and inspire others to do the same

1 Comment
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Working to get informational interviews in the virtual world is great advice. For the people willing to help it is a great way to learn and connect. At Contacts Count our mantra is networking is about teaching and giving. If folks are kind enough to give you their valuable time and advice, be sure to save 5 minutes or so as part of the discussion to find out a little bit more abut them and their work. Listen for the"give" - maybe article you can send or an introduction you can make.
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