For many of us, simply doing our work during these distressing times is a struggle. Talking about it with strangers then, is even more of a strain. Enthusiasm to actively network is low, and the fear of coming off as insensitive high. If you’re struggling to network through the grim realities of the second wave, read this article for some tips to network in a manner that is simple, empathetic and impressive.
A recent late-night Zoom call with a few friends ended with us lamenting, as usual, at how late we’d stayed up and how difficult it was going to be to work the next day. “I have so much to do tomorrow. Look,” one friend held his to-do list up to the camera. The to-do list was unusually lengthy, and – adding to the unusual – was simply a list of names and numbers.
When we enquired after his strange list (and sanity), his simple response was, “I’m networking. I cold emailed them all today, and they’ve agreed to schedule a call with me tomorrow.”
Cold email? Scheduled calls with strangers? Actively networking?!
At a time when I was struggling to simply do my work, how was he finding the enthusiasm to also speak about it with strangers?
Wariness of what people might be going through during the grim realities of the second wave, coupled with my own career uncertainties during the pandemic, had brought my active networking to a grinding halt. It’s hard to be enthusiastic about reaching out to new people, or expect equal enthusiasm from them, when everyone’s primary focus right now is to keep themselves and their family safe and healthy.
Taking a page from my friend’s planner, however, I decided to dip my feet in the waters of networking again. I was surprised to find that, even right now, if approached respectfully and sensitively, people were open to talking, helping, and building connections. Instead of being an annoying burden I had to force myself to do, it became an activity I found positivity and support in.
So, here are a few ways you can network during the pandemic, in a manner that is sensitive and beneficial to everyone involved.
Here Are Tips To Networking During The Pandemic
Remember You’re Reaching Out To Humans, Not Just Your ‘Network’
While cold emails and cold calls are still a great way to network, make sure you don’t come off as cold as well.
The first thing to keep in mind when networking right now is to be personal, empathetic, generous, and human.
You might be doing this to build your professional network, but that is simply the goal. Understand that the process is about building connections, not your network.
Chat. Talk about yourself. Make the other person feel comfortable to talk.
Address the pandemic and its devastating effects on us.. Ask them how they’ve been coping, and if they’ve been facing any challenges during the crisis. Your empathy will put them at ease and establish rapport. An insight into their situation can also help guide on how sensitive you need to be, and if you should avoid certain topics or requests during the rest of the conversation.
Know How You Can Add Value
First, realise that you have something of value to offer. Networking is always a two-way conversation. Help is given and received by both individuals. Be confident that you possess knowledge and skills that can help others.
When networking during the pandemic, go out of your way to figure out how you can offer value to the people you are reaching out to. Everyone needs and deserves a little extra support right now. Make it clear that you are willing to offer it. Be generous. Offer to help even if it seems like you might not get anything in return. Your generosity and support during these trying times will be remembered and returned – maybe even exactly at a point when it matters in your professional journey!
Be Open To Unintentional Networking
When the friend with the networking to-do list was talking about the people he was reaching out to, he mentioned that his list had a few individuals in positions of authority in my field of interest as well. He offered to send across my contact details to them, as someone they might find value in connecting with. I said “sure”, didn’t think much of it, but had received two emails from the people in his network by the end of the week.
Right now, when meeting new people at an event or party is not an option, being open to unintentional networking is key. This doesn’t mean networking passively, but actively seeking out opportunities in spaces you wouldn’t otherwise have thought to network in.
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- If a friend or coworker mentions somebody you find interesting, ask to be introduced.
- If you read an article online that you like, contact the author to tell them that.
- Comment on the posts of companies and individuals you admire.
- If somebody outside of your network reaches out to you (and they don’t seem shady), respond and build a connection.
- If you’re attending an online event, connect with the attendees.
You never know when and who will be a great networking opportunity. Be open to building connections and growing your network everywhere.
Attend Virtual Workshops
Speaking of online events, virtual workshops are incredible networking opportunities. In addition to learning a skill, you’re also in a virtual room full of people upskilling in the same area. You’re bound to find both like-minded individuals and individuals with similar careers and career aspirations among the attendees.
Keep your camera on and interact when given an opportunity during these workshops. Message an attendee if they make a comment you find interesting. Introduce yourself. Exchange emails or social media handles, and continue the conversation after the workshop is done.
Emailing the speaker or the host after the workshop is also a good idea. Thank them for conducting the workshop, and talk about the points that resonated with you. Request any recommendations they may have for additional resources on the topic.
Be Patient And Consistent
Networking has always been a slow process, and it can sometimes feel like you’re exerting more effort into maintaining the relationship than they are.
Understand that these challenges may only be exacerbated during the pandemic. Responding to or maintaining professional connections is not likely to be the first thing on people’s minds, or even the most important thing on their plate.
Be patient. You never know what people are going through. When you’ve reached out to someone, don’t annoy them away with constant follow-ups. Never allow impatience or frustration to seep into your communication. Allow for longer delays in responses and longer stretches of silence.
This doesn’t mean you give up if you don’t get the results quickly. Be patient, give them space and wait, but be consistent. Follow up after a while. Initiate conversation with connections at regular intervals.
Your networking motto during the pandemic then – Reach out, build, be there for them, and they’ll be there for you.
So, get to work on your network!
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