Struggling to make connections during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The coming of a new year often consists of new goals and aspirations for many — especially those hoping to take a step forward in their careers. In many cases, being offered a gig, getting a shot at a life-changing career opportunity, or even landing a job interview is a result of simple networking: which, for those who don’t know, means to build a professional relationship with people in your workplace or industry.
If you want to succeed in any aspect of your professional career, networking is a sure way of improving your chances. In addition to a dedicated and hardworking demeanor, connecting with a variety of people in your field — whether they’re long-time colleagues, newcomers or higher-ups — will help you increase opportunities to advance your career. The more people you hold professional relationships with, the better. The more connections you have, the more opportunities you will have knocking at your door.
Though the death of 2020 seems to have sparked hope in many for a prosperous 2021, the reality is that the COVID-19 pandemic is still raging on and it’s unlikely that things will be going back to normal anytime soon. Thanks to government-regulated restrictions brought upon by the virus, millions of working individuals across the globe have struggled to network in the last year and continue to do so. Having said that, there are plenty of fantastic and efficient ways to help not only make new connections remotely, but to allow you to maintain your already-established ones too.
Here are our top six tips to help individuals effectively network remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic:
Strengthen relationships with current connections:
The hardest part of making connections is often not knowing where to start. That’s why step 1 is simple, reach out to the people already in your network. See what they’ve been up to, how their career paths have changed since you last connected and ultimately, how they might be able to help you further yourself and expand your own circle.
Connect with friends of friends:
This tip goes together with strengthening your relationship with already-established connections. By reaching out to people you already know, you might be able to find new individuals to help fill your network. All you have to do is ask. See if your connections might know anyone that could lend you a hand in landing a specific role, or who could help you get your foot in the door of a certain industry or company. It’s amazing how small the world feels when you find out who knows who.
Increase your social media presence:
In a world where most of us are required to work from home, away from actual social places where you can potentially establish connections, it’s becomes imperative to adopt and utilize the tools you can. One such effective tool is social media. Get online and share your thoughts. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, you name it. Even if you’re not much of a social media advocate and like to generally stay away from those sites, it’s vital to have an active presence on professional platforms like LinkedIn to build meaningful professional connections and network with a wide range of professional people. Keep an up-to-date profile and make frequent and engaging posts, to improve the likelihood of being discovered by new connections.
Stay out of your comfort zone:
When it comes to networking, it’s important to diversify your circle. Sure, you might have certain connections within your industry that always have your back, but if you want to seek out every possible opportunity available to you, you need to get out of your comfort zone and talk to people who are either outside of your close circle, industry or even professional league. Seek out inspiration by making calls you think may not get answered or emailing the big names of the industry. Better yet, send that LinkedIn message to the CEO of the company you’re hoping to work for. Ask the questions you really want to ask. If those conversations happen and in turn go well, see if you can keep these people within your network.
Be flexible with your time:
If you get an opportunity to connect with someone, do your best to prioritize them over any other work or errands you may have on your to-do list. Set some of your time aside, let them know in advance and then set up a video call (with a prior invite), whether that’s over Google Meets, Microsoft Teams, Skype or Zoom etc. It’s important to understand that others may have a busy schedule — especially if they’re a prospect who could help you out in the long run — and respect that time. Be prepared with what you have to say or offer to your new or old connection and be willing to reschedule said call if they need to. Show your flexibility.
Don’t be transactional:
Though it’s important to make it clear why you’re connecting with someone, we’re all in the same boat right now; often feeling down and defeated by the state of the world. Don’t immediately jump to make requests or seek favours. When you make calls, or write emails, treat it no differently to how you would if it were in-person. Learn about your connection, look at their LinkedIn profile or email signature, so you have something else to talk about break the ice and relate with a potential connection on a neutral topic first. It’s vital to be vulnerable and conversational. It shows that you’re not just reaching out for the benefit of yourself and that you are an open human being, who might also have something to offer to the connection.