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The Power of Connection: Creative Ways to Build Your Network Virtually

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Stating 2020 has put a significant damper on networking—and physical human interaction in general—is a harsh reality that seems like a moot point compared to the overall devastation induced by the coronavirus pandemic. How humans exist is seemingly changing before our eyes—leaving many to wonder if this “socially distant” lifestyle is becoming our newfound reality.

However, it is crucial in times like these to remember what it means to be human—and the power that comes from human connection. As humans, we crave social interaction—so much that entire industries have been built solely on the premise of connecting people.

While the pandemic may be changing the way we interact, it doesn’t mean that it should stop the interaction. Some of the most inspiring stories of this year have stemmed from creative ways humans are finding to interact with each other safely—hosting virtual painting parties, having socially distanced graduations, and providing educational tutorials on the trending social media platform TikTok.

That being said, we’ve decided to curate a list of creative ways for you to build your network—personally and professionally—to tap into the power of human connection.

By reading this, you’ll learn:

  • Why networking is so important
  • Ways you can build your network virtually
  • The importance of having a growth mindset

To start, understanding why networking is valuable needs to be addressed. When defining the term “networking,” many associate the word solely with a professional context. However, the definition is explained as “the action or process of interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts.” Therefore, it’s important to note that while networking is mainly referred to in a professional context, it can be directly correlated within a social context. Whether you’re at a business mixer or enjoying a night out on the town with friends, networking in any setting can present future opportunities.

Now that we’ve clarified the textual definition let’s dive into why it matters. The most straightforward reason networking is critical is that it’s the gateway to limitless possibilities. Whether it’s in a personal or professional context, networking is a proven way to earn once in a lifetime opportunities. Have you ever heard the adage “it’s who you know”? This expression is ubiquitous, especially within the business landscape. Why? Because even to this day, it’s still true.

The fundamental theme of networking revolves around the idea that the right people help build you up, opening a world of possibilities that may have never fully come to fruition without others’ help. Remember, success is a collective effort for most of us, not solely one individual’s actions. Think about it like this—each individual you know is one potential opportunity. The more you know, the broader range of options you are likely to possess. This is how many successful individuals change industries, secure highly sought after positions, and continuously pursue new roles.

Another benefit of networking is the power of a referral. For instance, say you started developing contacts in the film industry and established a few solid relationships. You later learn they are looking for some new hires to expand their business into different regions. You happen to know a few of your friends are looking for work in that industry and connect the two—eventually leading to your friends getting hired and your industry connections pleased with the referral. How does this happen? It goes back to a simple principle that still stands true—word of mouth is the best form of advertising. Why? Because most people will trust the input and recommendation from a known source. If you were a manager looking to hire, would you prefer to hire someone referred by someone you know? Or take a gamble on the person that applied, and you don’t know anything about? Most of the time, you’re going to choose the first option. Referrals can be just as strong as knowing the person yourself and can come in handy when it’s needed—giving yet another reason why relationship building is so critical.

Now that we’ve explained networking’s importance for success, let’s look at creative ways you can network virtually.

Leverage LinkedIn

There’s a reason LinkedIn is the leading contender when it comes to an online networking solutions tool—it’s a reliable digital platform that successfully connects people with various opportunities. Whether you’re looking for your next career move, relationship building with like-minded professionals, or following influential business leaders, LinkedIn is a fantastic place to capitalize on the intersection of social media and professional networking. Part of the beauty of using the platform stems from its ability to help you make meaningful connections that can turn into real opportunities—regardless if you’ve met someone in person before connecting with them on LinkedIn. Remember, how we network—and meet people—is changing. Now is the time to recalibrate how you meet and interact with people and take advantage of the digital tools created to bridge the gap between physical distance and human connection, especially during a restructuring digital workforce.

LinkedIn also offers advantages outside the networking arena, including online training courses to master your skill set and professional assessments to gauge where you stand in the marketplace. However you choose to use LinkedIn is up to you—simply remember that it’s an essential tool you should be tapping into to expand your network and grow your sphere of influence in the digital age.

Connect in the Virtual Classroom

For those learning online, trying to connect with classmates in a virtual setting may feel a little silly. However, there is no harm in trying to build meaningful relationships in a virtual environment. Why? Because the person behind the computer is still a person! While you may not be able to connect with them physically at the current moment, you can still develop a worthwhile friendship in an online format. Fostering relationships in your virtual classes can significantly contribute to your academic success. From having peer accountability, engaging in virtual study sessions to crush your next exam, and being able to chat with someone throughout the—dare we say, potentially boring—lectures, engaging with your classmates online is still important, even if it’s a little different than the classroom norm. Remember the old days where you had a pen pal you would message on your AOL account? Treat it just like that. A connection is a connection, no matter how you do it. Plus, think about how much fun it will be when you interact with that individual in person. It will be like seeing an old friend for the first time in a long time. So get your Slack, G-Chat, iMessage, or any other form of communication you use, and start making some connections—virtually—in your classes!

Get Creative on Zoom

Most can attest to witnessing Zoom’s meteoric rise this year as the coronavirus pandemic forced most everyone to transition online and work from a remote setting. This, in turn, caused a massive leap into using Zoom’s video communications platform to communicate with colleagues, clients, partners, and more. At this point, Zoom is standard, seemingly becoming as synonymous as a form of communication like sending an email or a text message. So, why not get a little creative? Zoom is an excellent opportunity to do things such as host virtual networking sessions, engage in roundtable discussions, or put together a panel of industry-leading speakers, all from the comfort of your home. And who says it has to be all business and no play? From online painting sessions to virtual baby showers, this year has indeed shown how creative people can get with a little motivation and a lot of heart. So, come up with some fun ideas and get your Zoom on!

Join the YouTube Community

YouTube is a platform that has been around for quite some time and has amassed a large following of dedicated users since its inception. Nowadays, it’s easy to say that being a “YouTuber” is a typical side hustle or full-time career in the information age. But did you know outside of doing videos yourself, there is quite a lot of value in becoming connected within the YouTube community? Contrary to popular belief, YouTube has a lot more to offer than solely cute cat videos and people running into stuff. YouTube provides a nearly limitless library of videos that are as informational as they are entertaining. From cooking tutorials, financial advice, fashion tips, life hacks, product unboxing—yes, this one is highly satisfying—and more, there is a YouTube community for almost every niche. Aside from solely watching the videos, take part in the conversation, and see what others say! This is the perfect opportunity for you to make potential connections with others and form a relationship—all while learning something useful in the process!

On the flip side of the coin, if you’re not camera-shy, try giving YouTube a shot yourself! You never know what good may come from putting yourself online. Are you genuinely passionate about something? If so, talking to the online community can be an incredible way to share your voice and provide unfiltered insight into areas of interest that you and, potentially, many others follow. Aside from the probable YouTube fame—we know that’s a stretch—you can find great ways to facilitate conversations around shared interests and turn them into actionable results, such as creating a brand, developing a business, or starting a movement. The great thing about YouTube and the social media age is that if you’re willing to put in the work, the possibilities are endless! So, why not give it a try? As quoted by Brian Tracy, “Good things come to those who wait. But better things come to those who work for it.”

Become a Blogging Contributor

While it may seem uncoincidental that we are plugging blogs—this is a blog, in case you weren’t aware—there are many benefits to sharing your written voice. Why? Because writing resonates with people, and there are vastly different types of writers and readers alike, so you’re bound to find your niche and reach an audience of dedicated readers that can’t wait for you to publish your next feature. Additionally, being a contributor comes in many forms—allowing you to write in a way that best suits you. Whether it be on popular platforms such as LinkedIn, an op-ed for a well-known magazine, or a homemade website, there are various ways to get your printed word out there for others to enjoy.

Aside from the benefits of generating a following online and expanding your network virtually, blogs offer another prominent advantage—the opportunity to write. These days, it seems writing is becoming less common, as there are so many other ways to communicate. Sometimes it’s good to go back to the basics and take part in good ole’ fashioned writing—even if you’re not psychically writing with a pen and paper. That being said, grab your pen—or keyboard—find a quiet space, plug in some classical tunes, and get your writing on!

Social Media

While social media can seem daunting at times, especially with how it can construe the idea of physical human connection, it still has its pros that deserve some tapping into. Social media allows us to connect with like-minded individuals across the globe. It—much like YouTube—enables us to develop communities centered around specific points of interest. Whether you’re learning iPhone hacks on TikTok or getting inspiration for your at-home garden from Pinterest, social media is a brilliant way to connect with others and share ideas. Additionally, many positives can come from social media, giving us the chance to make once in a lifetime connections that otherwise may not have come to fruition. Social media is a virtual networking tool that shouldn’t be ruled out; just make sure to use it wisely!

So, What Does Having a Growth Mindset Mean?

As we conclude, it’s essential to understand the dogma behind a “growth mindset.” A growth mindset entails being open to possibilities—embracing change instead of resisting it. This year proves how businesses and individuals alike are making do with the pandemic, leaning into adversity and finding new ways of managing humanity—possibly for the long haul. However, not all this change is bad. For some, it's seemingly better. For example, did you know that air pollution has been dramatically reduced in certain areas, such as Los Angeles, due to the lack of traffic and driving? With the work from home effect in full force, many employers have seen productivity stay the same or improve since working from home. As an added benefit, many employees report being happier working from home and feeling optimistic rather than negative. While this is unfortunately not true for everyone, the main point is change is sometimes a good thing.

The same goes for expanding your network virtually. Just because it hasn’t been done before doesn’t mean it can’t be done now. It’s better to embrace the change and get creative with meeting people virtually instead of shutting yourself off to the idea entirely, later wondering “what could have been” if you had taken the opportunity. In the end, how you live your life is up to you, but there is beauty in looking towards the future and seeing not what is but what can be!