6 Tips to Build a Network When You Don't See People Face-to-Face
When you attend a university that offers a wide variety of online courses, you end up having a unique college experience. While you may not pledge at a sorority or attend Saturday’s football game, an online experience provides a great deal of flexibility for families, careers, and more. If you feel like you won’t build a network of peers and mentors online like you might at a more traditional university, think again.
As someone who runs an online business at HomeByHome.com, much of my work—and networking—doesn’t happen face-to-face. Since I started pursuing my BA in Real Estate Studies at Ashford, I’ve learned an online university is much closer to the real world, where you interact with the majority of your coworkers, friends, and family on social networks, email, and text messaging. Here are 6 tips from my experiences to build a strong personal and professional network when you don’t always see people in person.
1. Identify Your Goals
Without a goal in mind, networking is like taking a long walk in the desert without any water—you won’t last long. Whether you are looking for a job, finding friends, trying to become an industry expert, or something else, focus on your networking goal.
2. Connect with Old Friends
There is only one thing better than making a new connection and that’s rekindling an old one. An old friend can offer many things: friendship, business connections, or even new relationships. Having moved six or seven times growing up, I’m fortunate to have a lot of old friends to reconnect with and have found that old friends cheer you on as loud as, if not louder than, your current friends.
3. Build Your Brand
A brand is represented by the set of thoughts, feelings, and emotions that exist when you think of that brand. Companies place a value on their brand in their financial statements. Alphabet, parent company to Google.com, places their goodwill, or the intangible value of their brand, at around $17 Billion, and Apple values their brand at close to $6 Billion. You may not realize it, but the single most important brand in your life is your own brand. What do others think about when they hear your name? Smart? Hard-worker? Talented? Screw-up? Whatever you decide you want your brand to be known for, you need to be intentional about doing the type of things that will lead people to think about you that way.
4. Optimize Your Social Media Profiles
Update your Facebook photo, update your Twitter account, and ask for a few LinkedIn recommendations. No matter what networking goals you have, you can use social media to create new and deeper relationships than you already have. If you are looking for new professional connections, focus your time on LinkedIn, which is designed for business networking. Identify people who you could benefit from; send them a connection request or an InMail, and tell them why you’d like to connect. You’ll be surprised by how often you not only increase your connections, but how often you actually find someone who is genuinely interested in helping you out.
If you are going to ask people for help, you better be willing to help others in return. Over the last 10 years, I’ve made a concerted effort to help mentor and contribute to the growth and development of my friends and employees. Since leaving my job as Chief Marketing Officer at PuppySpot.com to start my own business, I have been blown away by the people who have been willing to help me. I recently had a product planning meeting for my transaction coordinator business and was blown away that three of my past team members took nearly half of their Saturday to give me feedback and product help.
6. Be Intentional
Whether in your personal life or your professional life, make sure you know what you want and go after it. If you aren’t seeing the results you would like, change your course. Don’t wake up one day and realize you are in a job or a relationship that you never wanted.
Use technology to change your life. Connect with new people. Find your new career. Get a degree. Online students may not have a typical college experience, but we can have one that changes everything for the better.
Written by James Green, current student and entrepreneur with 15 years of experience in the online dating, pet, and real estate industries. In addition to being Founder and CEO of a transaction coordinator business and a startup helping home buyers and sellersfind a real estate agent, he also has extensive experience in marketing and business management. Previously, James served on the Board of the Google Client Advisory Council while working as General Manager and Head of Marketing for Christian Mingle. He is currently enrolled at Ashford University to obtain his BA of Real Estate Studies.