Five Tips For Networking Safely During COVID
Around the world, people are doing their best to stay home in order to slow the spread of coronavirus. At a time when people are socially distancing, there is even more of a need to be social and finding creative ways to do just that. People are relying on technology more than ever before to help them stay connected to everything from meetings and job interviews to friends and family.
People often associate networking with casual conversations, elevator pitches and stacks of business cards. However, the key to successful networking is to get to know people on a one to one basis while having genuine conversations. You have the unique opportunity to learn about a job opening, get career advice, find a mentor, meet a future colleague and vice versa.
Right now a lot of people are working remotely, managing businesses virtually and taking care of their friends and family in addition to their own health needs. Reframing the art of networking when it comes to leading with how you can provide value to other people as they navigate this “new normal”.
Share What You Have To Offer
Take a hint from the sudden influx of virtual learning opportunities and share your in demand skill set. Personal and group fitness instructors have taken to social media in order to share free or discounted at-home workouts. Teachers have hosted virtual classes on social media for parents who are struggling to balance work and homeschooling. Financial planners have shared money advice for small business owners and individuals. Accountants have helped people understand tax relief programs and new filing deadlines. Technologically inclined individuals have taught people how to use FaceTime, Zoom, Skype and other tools to learn what is the best way to stay connected in their personal and professional lives. Whatever you're good at, make authentic connections by using your expertise to create value for others.
Finding Relevant Online Networking Opportunities
Any industry organizations, college career departments and alumni groups are all hosting online networking events so people can connect safely. Talk with like minded individuals on Facebook or in LinkedIn groups. Learn new skills, job search tips and join the conversation. Write meaningful comments and share your knowledge.
Schedule Virtual Meetings
If you connect with someone at an in-person networking event and think you could help one another, send a follow-up email or Google invite so you can get together for coffee in the upcoming weeks. If you connect with someone at an online networking event or in a group, send an email and make sure to include your LinkedIn information as well.
Normally it is best practice to email your strongest professional connections often enough so that you don’t just reach out when you have a favor—like that you need them to be a reference for your job search or pass your resume along to their friend who works at your target company, etc.
Networking With Your Colleagues
Whether it is online or in-person, the best way to network with your current colleagues is to impress them. Demonstrate that you consistently do a great job and are pleasant to work with. The soft skills that will impress people the most in the remote-work world are communication, time-management, independence and prioritization.
Check in with your manager and team often in order to keep them aware of what you are working on and what you’ve accomplished. Ask if there is anything else you can help with. Better yet, if you see projects that need to be done or ways something can improve, offer to tackle them. Reread all your emails and chat messages before sending to see if there are ways you can organize the information more clearly like by having lists, bullet points and action items.
Your co-workers will be impressed by your organization, dedication and proactivity. They’ll be grateful, especially if they are at home with the kids or even taking care of someone.
Don’t Hesitate To Reach Out!
You never know what people are going through in their personal lives. People you meet through online networking and in your existing professional network could have a lot on their plate during this very uncertain time. Connect with them on social media so you can get a sense of how they are doing.
Social media is considered a general highlight these days, but people have been more vulnerable and open lately. Use it to your advantage while utilizing email as the first place you connect with someone. Request a call or video chat if it is necessary or if they initiate. Remember that one of the best ways you can help your co-workers and loved ones is to make sure that you take care of your health first so you can be there for them in return.