It’s hard to see how you can successfully network towards that next job during a pandemic while social distancing. But consider this: people are doing everything virtual from bingo to wine tastings, birthday parties to art gallery openings. The odds are that your network is more open than ever to virtual contact. Follow these tips to make the most of your virtual networking efforts.
Whether you’re using LinkedIn, Twitter or other social networks to advance your career, networking is about building relationships – and relationships are two–way streets. It’s not about meeting as many people as possible. It’s about having a few genuinely meaningful connections since people get jobs through their connections’ connections, rather than their direct friends or colleagues.
Make a list of things you can do for people in your network. Share an interesting article or introduce someone in your network that will be a helpful connection to
them in their industry. Small things done with the other person’s needs in mind can jump-start your networking.
Everyone is facing challenges to some degree during the pandemic. So instead of asking “How are things?” start by asking “How are you holding up?” and share something about positive habits you’ve adopted to help cope with the crisis.
Simply acknowledging how difficult things are is often appreciated. Crafting the correct level of familiarity is important depending on your connections’ relationship with you. For more guidance on how to craft your communications check out these templates.
Smile for the Camera
Instead of just settling for a phone call, work towards setting up a video chat. Video calls make it easier to establish a connection especially with a new person. Remember to smile and do the following:
- Keep it to 15 minutes for starters but make sure you can accommodate more time if they want to continue the conversation.
- Offer flexibility to choose a date and time that works for them. Ask them the format that they prefer and be sure you know it. Zoom? GoToMeeting? Skype? YouTube videos are a great resource for learning meeting apps and best practices for video meeting.
- Be responsible for setting up the meeting, sending them an invite and sending a reminder the day before.
- Consider sending over a $5 Starbucks card ahead of time to treat them to a cup of coffee the same way you would have before the crisis.
The one thing never to ask for in a networking meeting is a job. The purpose of a networking meeting is always “I’m seeking some wisdom from you.” People love to share their wisdom. The job comes later when someone in their network asks for a referral and they think of you.
Remember this is not a job interview. It’s about building a relationship. So, let them do the talking. Share your brief personal narrative but the rest of the time you should be asking questions to gain their insight and advice. The information they share will help you build the relationship through future relevant communications.
Lives and jobs have been turned upside-down. Many are working doing double duty to hold their jobs. Consistency is important and so is patience. Steer clear of sending repetitive reminders. Instead, spread your communications over time and craft messages that are relevant to what you imagine is happening in their environment.
Contact your local career center for more help with your networking skills and job search. Their services are free and provide workshops on-line.