Jeff Sloan on The Growing Importance of Virtual Networking

Jeff Sloan on The Growing Importance of Virtual Networking

Jeff Sloan

Jeff Sloan is an advisor to entrepreneurs and is focused on keeping up with all the fast-moving changes relating to best practices small business owners must be aware of in order to be competitive in today’s supremely challenging environment. Jeff Sloan points out that as fast as things were morphing prior to the pandemic, the rate of change is even greater today – from basic business operations management to marketing to sales and everything in between. One such change is how we network in the post-pandemic era. Conventional wisdom makes it clear that one key tenet of creating success in business is getting out there and pressing the flesh – networking – whether that is part of sales campaign or to source the best possible vendors and partners for your business or to meet prospective investors, there is simply no substitute for getting out there and working the crowd.

Jeff Sloan believes COVID-19 has changed how entrepreneurs can safely, effectively network. Today, while there are some live events, including industry conventions, many still are remaining virtual. And moreover, even for those that are once again live, many are reluctant to attend, especially as virus variants continue to plague us.  And so, just like retail has moved significantly online, networking is taking place online today with greater and greater emphasis. That’s right, “virtual networking” has even become the networking style of choice for younger demographics now in the business world.

A new survey just released by career networking firm known as Handshake reports1 that while the concept of doing our networking virtually is a hard one to embrace for older generations, younger generations, specifically Gen Z, are welcoming the change and embracing it. They’re doing their networking by leveraging connections on LinkedIn, Twitter, and even TikTok. In fact, the survey indicates that over two thirds of those surveyed believe they don’t need to meet professional connections in person to form meaningful relationships with them—and this stunning new reality begs the question – is this a temporary accommodation or is this the beginning of what might mark the end of networking as we knew it?

Key take-aways from the Handshake survey include the following:

  • Gen Z is more optimistic about building a career network than their parents because of the digital world. Eighty percent say it’s easier to make professional connections than their parents’ generation.
  • Recent graduates of color are even more likely to perceive increased opportunity and equity through digital connections. Respondents of color are 1.7 times as likely to believe it’s easier to enter a career now compared to their parents’ generation.
  • Meeting in person? No longer necessary to build a network (according to Gen Z). Sixty-seven percent believe you do not have to meet in person to make a professional connection, with women 26% more likely than men to say so.
  • More than 8 in 10 Gen Z job seekers believe that digital connections sparked by messages will lead to a job opportunity. This optimism breeds mobility— about a third of respondents are considering jumping ship in the next six months (a rate that is 2 times higher for Black students and alumni).
  • The vast majority are willing to pay it forward. Over 90% would offer to help a younger person they don’t know from their college with career advice.

Now, just like the move to ecommerce as a primary way of doing business was inevitable ultimately, the pandemic condensed the time frame for this change, and it happened in what seems like the blink of an eye. Similarly, just as we made the move to conducting business meetings online with resources like Zoom, we now find ourselves conducting our critical networking virtually as well. Jeff Sloan explains that when you consider what appears to be positives like conducting our networking more efficiently as a result of an emphasis on virtual networking, or that it has led to increased opportunity and equity across genders and race for example, it makes it a very compelling improvement over the old school way method of literally pressing the flesh.

To be successful at virtual networking, focus first on utilizing whatever social media platforms you use most frequently and with which you’ve already established a network. Just like when working the crowd in person, it’s key to make an effort to introduce yourself and to be compelling and relevant when you make that first contact. Once contact is made and there is an opportunity to follow up, it’s best to be forthright and direct and to come across as authentic in how you present yourself and in whatever the “ask” of yours may be. Jeff Sloan reminds people not to neglect the opportunity to expand your network by asking if they may know others with whom you should be in touch. Once you master one platform, don’t be shy about trying others. While there is a learning curve, the rewards are worth the time and effort it takes to come up to speed. Beyond social media platforms, you can join groups, such as those on Facebook, for example, and showcase your expertise through the publishing of content and though-provoking commentary which leads to others wanting to reach out to you instead of you having to make the first contact.

Business can be exhilarating and rewarding in so many ways, but to be successful you must keep up with the dynamic changes happening in every aspect of business ownership today. To be sure to be where the action is, Jeff Sloan recommends putting an extra focus on your online virtual networking in order to optimize opportunities for your business.

  1. The full report associated with the Handshake survey can be found at www.