The pandemic has disrupted every aspect of our personal and professional lives, including a key fixture in our careers – networking. This activity which used to happen at conferences and professional meetings has now been moved to Zoom breakout rooms. Most professionals agree, especially with economic uncertainty, networking is more important than ever.
The lack of networking opportunities is worrisome and as Exequiel Hernandez notes in an article for the Wall Street Journal, “What this is going to do is enhance the advantages of those who are well-connected. For those who are disadvantaged, it’s going to be harder to develop the new ties they need to advance their career. This is not helpful for graduates looking for jobs, or those on the periphery of professional networks.”
Here are two simple things that you can be doing to continue networking efforts amidst the pandemic:
Be Proactive with Online Tools
Take some time to peruse your contacts on LinkedIn. Prioritize them within a spreadsheet and then reach out. Your message can be as simple as checking in and asking how they are doing and if there is anything that you could do to reconnect and add value to their current work.
You may also need to increase your use on networking site
and apps in order to keep in touch with existing contacts and hopefully meet
new ones. In the past, we have recommended using Twitter
for networking. Ziprecruiter, an online recruiting platform, also
recommends using Followerwonk, a
Twitter analytics tool, which will enable you to get a list of relevant and
influential though leaders in your field.
If you connect and check out who they follow, you will hopefully expand
your network and perhaps even learn about new courses and/or events.
Widening your networking circle to include “weak ties” is important because these connections are likely to have new information you wouldn’t readily learn about from your regular contacts.
Now, more than ever, it is important to think about the timing and tone of messages. Everyone is dealing with a lot these days. Starting your message with some acknowledgment of this challenging moment in history is fine to do, maybe even necessary. Recognize that the person’s job situation may have changed, even if it is not broadcast online yet. And, if you have faced a professional hurdle during the pandemic, it is okay to be upfront about that in your messaging.
Our professional and personal lives overlap and the time and energy we have to commit to things has become compressed. When networking, be considerate of the amount of time it takes to simply schedule meetings/calls. It can be helpful to use a calendar app which will do much of the work for you and hopefully will eliminate the back and forth friction of finding a common time between calendars. Some sites include: Book Like a Boss or Calendly*.
*The NIH does not endorse these specific products and has no affiliation with the respective companies