8 “Netiquette” Tips for Networking Online
When you're doing most of your learning and networking online, strong digital social skills are a must. Internet etiquette, or "netiquette," is all about interacting with others in a positive way. As the pandemic continues, these unwritten rules for behaving in digital environments are more important than ever. Whether you want to expand your professional network or increase the value of your interactions with your fellow students or professors in online classes, being mindful of your netiquette is useful every step of the way.
Here are some common-sense guidelines to help you put your best foot forward when you’re building professional relationships online.
1. Pay Attention to Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation
Your online writing is a stand-in for you as a person, so make sure it's always presentable. Even if you’re more comfortable communicating with emojis than with conjugating verbs, when networking it’s important to keep it professional and to pay close attention to details like grammar and spelling. These types of mistakes can easily distract from the point of your message, even if you have something valuable to say.
You should also avoid writing in all caps (LIKE THIS) because it's a virtual faux pas that looks like you're shouting. Overall, take the time to make your text readable and appealing in digital conversations.
2. Be Accurate and Factual When Networking
The internet has an endless stream of information coming from every corner, and much of it can be inaccurate or misleading. Get in the habit of checking your facts, using credible sources, and being careful with what you choose to share.
Providing bad information will degrade the quality of the conversation and can seriously harm your trustworthiness and reputation. Gain the respect of your virtual network by being part of the solution instead of part of the problem.
3. Join Professional and Academic Organizations
Round out your education, and make valuable professional contacts, by joining groups related to your career field. The pandemic has seriously limited in-person socializing, but the options for connecting online are better than ever. Many activities have switched to a virtual format, making them accessible to anyone with an internet connection.
If you want to learn more about your field from leaders in the industry, the sky (the cloud?) is the limit. You can now attend a wide range of virtual conferences, meetings, and networking events from the comfort of your laptop.
4. Use LinkedIn Effectively
If you're not yet making the most of your LinkedIn profile, you're missing out. This powerful networking platform is a great resource for practically any career. If you meet someone interesting at a virtual conference, reach out on LinkedIn to continue the conversation. You can also connect with students, professors, and alumni of your program, as well as people you worked with at previous jobs.
While you don't want to be too persistent, LinkedIn is specifically designed for this form of networking. Many of your contacts will be glad to keep in touch, especially if you have interests in common. Sustaining these relationships can lead to exciting opportunities, such as internship or job openings, or help with finding a mentor.
5. Set up Virtual Coffee Dates
Nurture the strongest relationships in your network by meeting face to face over Zoom or another videoconferencing app. Video chats are a great way to create a more human connection than is possible via text. Chat with a professor about your academic and professional goals, brainstorm with fellow students, or keep in touch with a past advisor.
Your goal should be to engage in a productive conversation that strengthens the relationship. If you're not sure how to set up a virtual coffee date, your invitation can be as simple as "Do you have 15 minutes to get on a Zoom call with me next week?"
6. Kindness Always Counts When Networking
The nature of digital spaces can lead people to come off harsher than they would in face-to-face settings. To make positive contributions to your online networking efforts, being respectful goes a long way. Remember that everyone is different, with unique experiences and perspectives.
If you disagree with someone, try to express that disagreement without being inflammatory or antagonistic. This can mean engaging in a constructive way to learn more, or simply moving on. Rudeness is both unkind and unprofessional. You can promote healthy discussions, and make a good impression on others, simply by being polite.
7. Be Careful with Sarcasm
Sarcastic humor is a tough sell online and can easily backfire. The problem is that text-based communication lacks much of the context of in-person conversations, especially body language and tone of voice. Even if the sarcasm seems obvious to you, you can easily be misinterpreted.
It's certainly possible to express your personality and be light-hearted while interacting online. However, you shouldn't assume that everyone will know where you're coming from when networking. The intent of your words should be as clear as possible, so sarcasm is best avoided.
8. Think Before Typing, Pause Before Posting
Before hitting that send button, take a moment to reflect. Are you comfortable with your message? Remember that everything you say on the internet can become part of a permanent digital record. These things can take on a life of their own in an unexpected way, such as when content on social media platforms goes viral. Once something is out there, it may not be possible to take it back.
Even if your words are seen by very few people, you're still shaping perceptions of you that can affect your life and career. Put your best foot forward and your online presence can become a great asset in an increasingly digital world.
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