In a time not so long ago, networking was always an in-person affair. Whether at a conference or casual after-work drinks, meeting face-to-face was considered the most effective way of forging new professional relationships. But then, COVID-19 happened.
The coronavirus outbreak has seen the introduction of social distancing and lockdown measures on a global scale to limit the spread of the virus. Despite being necessary, these measures have made traditional forms of networking nigh impossible.
However, even though many of us are now working from home and we’re only allowed limited contact with others, that doesn’t mean that your networking efforts have to fall by the wayside. There are still ways in which you can maintain your connections and cultivate new ones from a safe distance.
Whether you’re looking for a new job opportunities or just want to widen your professional circle, here are some effective ways to network remotely during COVID-19 and beyond.
Re-connect with your network
It’s an uncertain time for us all right now. So, spend a few minutes each day to reach out to people in your network who you might not have spoken to recently. Whether they’re old work colleagues, clients or candidates, ask how they’re getting on and offer your help and support if you can. Don’t forget to also extend these goodwill messages to your current colleagues too.
Whether you do it by call or email, this can be a fantastic way of re-connecting and open the door to a wealth of opportunities- but only if it’s done sincerely and not with an ulterior motive in mind.
Ask for help
A simple yet effective way of making new connections and to make someone feel appreciated is by asking for help or advice. Maybe you’re thinking of changing careers or need some advice on working abroad? Look to your network and beyond and ask for help or pointers from people in the know. People generally love to feel useful, so don’t be surprised by their generosity or eagerness to help you, even if you don’t know them all that well.
Diversify your network
When searching for new contacts to add to your network, it can be tempting to only stick to your own field and industry. While this is understandably important, it’s just as important to diversify your network with interesting and knowledgeable professionals from outside your industry too. Thanks to the internet and social media, finding people from all kinds of backgrounds and fields has never been easier.
These contacts can offer new outlooks and ideas, whilst also challenging your ideas and plans. Without a variety of viewpoints to draw inspiration from, you could limit your learning and development.
Seen a thought-provoking whitepaper or job ad online that might be of interest to someone you know? Send it to them or tag them directly. Even if you don’t know the person that well, this act shows your eagerness to help and that you’ve taken an interest in them. It can also be a fantastic conversation starter and help you to make deeper professional connections. You find that the person you send it to will be eager to return the favour and remember you again in future, which is never a bad thing.
Invite someone for a virtual coffee
If you meet an interesting person during a webinar or on social media, why not invite them for a virtual coffee to discuss a point they made or a status they posted? The pandemic has made casual coffee trips and drinks at the water cooler with colleagues and contacts temporarily obsolete. So, there’s a good chance they will welcome the opportunity for human interaction, even if it is virtually. You never know, that brief conversation could open new doors you didn’t even know existed.
Don’t get disheartened
One of the biggest mistakes many people many when networking, both in-person and virtually, is giving up too easily when they get rejected. While many people are open to the idea of making connections and meeting new people, not everyone is. So, you need to become comfortable with the possibility of rejection or disinterest. If this happens, you need to brush yourself off, consider your approach and try again with someone else. Your consistency will eventually pay off – trust us!
The future of networking
Even when lockdown restrictions are fully lifted, there’s a strong possibility that social distancing measures, such as mask-wearing will continue to be enforced. This could mean that face-to-face networking conferences and meetings aren’t given the green light straight away. There’s also the possibility that these events have to be organised differently to ensure that attendee health and safety is more of a priority.
While some long for the old ways of working in an office full-time, COVID-19 has made many businesses realise the benefits of remote working. This is something that many business leaders are now considering continuing long-term, which could also alter the way networking events are carried out in future. Many professionals have gotten used to the ease and convenience of video calls, so it’s likely that live streams and online events could become more popular.
So, if you want to continue strengthening your professional ties and seeking opportunities to cultivate new ones, spend some time investing in your remote networking skills. This preparation and foresight are bound to pay dividends long after COVID-19 becomes a distant memory.