Networking During COVID-19 and Beyond
My clients often ask me, “So, exactly how do I approach networking?” In-person networking is on pause at the moment but some of the same concepts apply to virtual networking. I’d like to share the following tips that I provide to my clients. As a career development professional, you may already offer the same advice, but if not, I hope you’ll find these tips useful and adopt them for your own use. If you have some gems of your own, please feel free to add them in the comments below. Clients find it encouraging to know that it is possible to safely engage in networking during COVID-19. And I believe these tips hold up in a post-pandemic world, too.
Where to Network During COVID-19?
For most people, the concept of networking conjures up images of face-to-face gatherings of like-minded individuals. Elevator pitches and business cards may be exchanged. But as the COVID-19 virus continues to restrict face-to-face interactions, we’ve all had to pivot to online networking.
LinkedIn is the most popular networking site. They make it simple to join industry-specific groups or connect with individuals of interest. Look for companies or influencers that you might like to follow. As high-profile as LinkedIn is, keep in mind that it’s not the only game in town. If you’re looking for alternatives to LinkedIn, here are two articles that offer some suggestions: Online Networking Alternatives to LinkedIn and 13 Awesome Professional Networking Alternatives to LinkedIn.
Eventbrite is another great site to explore. They offer online speed networking, mentorship series, and other opportunities for networking, learning, and even having some fun during COVID-19.
How to be a Great Virtual Networker
Be aware of online networking etiquette:
- Minimize background noise and distractions.
- Join conversations, but time your entry (wait until others are finished speaking).
- Introduce yourself, and don’t forget to smile.
- Ask how someone is doing, and listen with sincere interest.
- Remember the importance of give-and-take and that it’s not all about you.
- Always use the other person’s name in conversation to show that you remember and are interested in them.
- Stay respectful.
- Ask to connect after the networking session.
Continue to grow your network:
Before you do, think about why you are connecting and communicating. With whom do you want to connect? Make a list. Get out of your comfort zone occasionally and connect with someone from a different industry. You would be surprised how much potentially transferable information can be exchanged and learned. Keep your mind open to different viewpoints and ways of doing things.
Be there for your connections:
To continue to build and strengthen your networking relationships, it is important to be present. This creates a deeper, more genuine connection. Let your network know that you are there if they need you. This does not have to be every day, or every week. We all have busy lives and are in different situations. Reach out when you can and send a meaningful message. Be empathetic to everyone’s situation. You may not receive a response right away, or at all. Don’t take it personally. Allow people to reach out when they are ready.
Be thoughtful and deliberate in your communications:
Think about sending the kind of communications that you would be happy to receive. Be professional but let your personality shine through. Humour can have a beneficial impact during online networking sessions, too. These light touches will do more to nurture your network relationships than thinking, “Oh, I have to send something out every Tuesday.”
Leverage your social media connections:
Let your network know what you are up to. Keep your profiles up-to-date and be active on your preferred networking sites.
The Benefits of Networking, Now and In the Future
By engaging in online networking, you can:
- Open doors to new opportunities.
- Widen your network and referrals.
- Gain advice from experienced peers.
- Get answers to any questions you may have.
- Be noticed and raise your profile.
- new insights and perspectives.
- Connect, converse, and form lasting relationships with people you haven’t met before.
- Build your confidence.
- Satisfaction from helping each other (give-and-take).
Some individuals may be introverted and not have the confidence or courage to network online. This short article offers some great advice on how to get started: Professional Networking Online: 5 Ideas for Introverts.
If you want to improve your online networking skills you may enjoy reading How to Become Better at Networking Despite the Coronavirus Keeping You at Home.
And virtual networking doesn’t always have to be related to our work. Why not have some fun by starting or joining a community group related to a hobby or unique interest? Check out 5 Benefits of Hosting a Community Group in the Age of Social Distancing.
Interestingly, with the successful adoption of online networking and meetings, many people have come to believe that All Conferences Should be Virtual in a Post-Coronavirus World.
Felisha Ali is a full-time Learning & Development Specialist and a part-time professor teaching Career Planning at Seneca College. She is a CPC member and volunteer, and a Career Development Practitioner. In her full-time role, Felisha provides career development and well-being knowledge and guidance, and facilitates career development workshops for Seneca College employees. In her part-time role, Felisha is dedicated to helping her students succeed on their career paths. She is currently undertaking a Master of Education in Educational Leadership. When she is not working, Felisha volunteers as a mentor helping new immigrants with résumé and interview assistance. She also loves to cook and is a mom to an intelligent 6-year-old who keeps her on her toes.