The following blog was shared with Forge Buffalo by our partners at Viaduct. A proven partner of Buffalo’s startup community, Viaduct connects emerging businesses with their most important asset: people. The talent acquisition company works with entrepreneurs to identify new job candidates, assess their compatibilities and manage their onboarding.

Pete Petrella, Managing Director at Viaduct, provides valuable insights on the importance of networking during this time of social distancing and how to engage and enhance your network virtually.

As the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has spoiled in-person functions over the past several months, professional networking engagements have also seen their better days. Gone – at least for the foreseeable future – are early-morning coffee meetings, business roundtable events, and evening happy hour meetups.

But as the Western New York community continues to attract high-potential companies to our area, many individuals are craving to connect with these startups and their key stakeholders. If you’re looking to enhance your network and engage with new professionals, take a look at the following tips to ensure virtual networking success.

Do your homework

Before engaging with any startup, learn more about the organization and its mission. Find out if the company has raised recent funding. Spend time researching awards or recognition that the startup has received. Explore LinkedIn to discover more about the company’s executive leadership while learning about the backgrounds of key stakeholders. Gaining an intimate understanding of what a startup does and why they do it will ultimately help you to carry on a more productive conversation with a company representative once you get the chance to connect.

Be active and engaged

One of the best ways to learn more about Buffalo’s finest startup organizations is by joining the WNY Startup Community channel on Slack. With a network of more than 1,000 members, the platform helps to aggregate Buffalo’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and bring awareness to local events. You can also take part in the Open Coffee Club, which has shifted meetings to a virtual setting. Joining these online conversations is another great way to acquaint yourself with some of the most recognizable leaders in and contributors to the startup community.

Don’t ask for a job right away

The worst thing you can do upon introducing yourself to a potential connection is immediately asking for a job. Networking is all about relationships, which take time and effort to develop. Your top priority should be to build mutual trust and a strong rapport with any professional. Ultimately, networking is far from a one-way street. Remember: it’s not just about what your connection can do for you – it’s also about what you can do for your connection. 

Patience, patience, patience

When networking in a virtual setting, you can’t expect results to come overnight. Give people time to respond to your emails or return your phone calls. The fact of the matter is that many professionals – particularly ones you’d be most interested in connecting with – have been forced to take on additional workloads to atone for employees that were furloughed or laid-off. Rather than bombarding people with multiple emails, gently follow-up with them if you don’t receive a response after a few weeks.

Interested in viewing a list of current job openings at Western New York startups? Click here to launch the Forge Buffalo job board. To browse additional opportunities with startups around the country, you can access the Viaduct job board here.