Whether you’re currently searching for a new position or you are just starting to get cabin fever working from home, one area many of us have neglected is networking during COVID-19. It’s understandable. We couldn’t meet face to face, and in a lot of places, we still can’t. But if you’re ready to re-start your networking efforts virtually, below we discuss how to get started.
With unemployment high, and companies still furloughing or laying people off, networking is as critical now as it ever has been. Admittedly, virtual networking is a lot different than meeting for coffee or lunch. So you’ll have to be willing to experiment. This doesn’t have to be a scary thing. Just be yourself and be honest. If you are not comfortable on a Zoom call, let the other person know that this is new for you. You’ll likely find that they won’t find this odd at all and understand how things can be a little awkward right now.
Demonstrating creativity and adaptability, a key soft skill for leaders, can help you stand out. For example, if you’d like to meet someone face to face, suggest meeting in an outdoor public place like a park. You can walk and talk, socially distanced, and outside. Find out what they are most comfortable with and work around that. You could schedule a lunch and have it delivered to their home during your call (video or voice) so you’re still having lunch together, but apart.
One element of successful networking that hasn’t changed is the willingness to give instead of getting. A rule of thumb is to avoid talking about yourself beyond a ninety second introduction. If they ask a specific question, it’s fine to answer, but avoid focusing the conversation on yourself. Trying to shortcut the process by asking for a job without putting in the time and energy to help the people you’re networking with is going to blow up in your face. Networking is about relationships. Seek to help others first, then the reciprocation will occur naturally and organically.
Another leadership trait you can demonstrate during your networking is taking the initiative. For example, when reaching out, provide three times you’re available over the next few weeks so they don’t have to put too much effort into connecting with you. Also find out what communication channel they prefer to use…phone, video call (Zoom, Skype, etc…), and use this channel for the meeting. Once the time and date are confirmed, send the invitation and confirm with them the day before. This shows your initiative and follow through.
Make sure you’re prepared. If you’re on a video call, set up your space with the proper lighting, camera angle, and acoustics. If you’re meeting in person, make sure you arrive early and have a mask. And if this is a new contact, it goes without saying that you should do your homework. LinkedIn makes this step very easy. There is no excuse for showing up uninformed. It wastes the other person’s time and could negatively impact your networking efforts with others in their network. Put in the pre-work time, the results can be exponential.
If you have questions on how to become a better networker, visit our blog as well as those of the top search firms including Korn Ferry, Heidrick and Struggles, Spencer Stuart, and Egon Zehnder. There is a lot of valuable information available to you. And if you have a specific need, let us know how we can help.