Networking During a Pandemic
Featured article by Diana Alt
One of my superpowers is that I am a CONNECTOR.
I recognize not everyone feels the same way. Loads of people in my world would rather spend an afternoon folding fitted sheets than approaching new people.
And yet… at a time when so many people are worried about what’s next, what does the universe tell us is our most important professional objective?
The combination of remote work and school that is lasting longer than any of us expected, my connector superpower, and my work as a career coach mean I get asked this question a lot:
“How do I network effectively during a global pandemic?”
I’ve put a lot of thought into this question and my answer is this:
Networking effectively during a global pandemic looks almost exactly like networking effectively before a global pandemic.
The location is just different.
I’ve been challenged on this answer, mostly by people who aren’t comfortable with networking in general. My friends and colleagues who are crushing meaningful networking are more likely to agree with me.
This means the REAL question is “How do I network effectively in ANY circumstances?”
I’m glad you asked!
Effective networking is about serving others.
Ever get a message from a recruiter claiming to have the “PERFECT ROLE”, only to discover the role relates to work you did 10+ years ago? That’s a recruiter who is networking transactionally. Serving others is the furthest thing from their mind.
What does serving your network look like?
- Sending a link to a podcast episode that would help someone with their business.
- Introducing people you think can help each other.
- Straight-up asking people “what can I help you with?”
Effective networking is part of day-to-day life.
Networking is not just a once-a-quarter happy hour hosted by your favorite professional organization at the hot spot martini bar downtown. Those events are fun, and networking can start there, but they often feel more like speed dating than meaningful interactions.
How can you incorporate networking into your daily life?
- Swap 10-15 minutes per day of Instagram scrolling to engaging on LinkedIn. Catch up on connection requests and messages. Join a group. Share an article. It’s pretty easy.
- Set a goal to reach out to two or three people per week synchronously. This can be a five-minute text exchange, or an hour-long lunch. The key to engage in real-time.
- Schedule virtual or socially-distanced activities with people from time to time that are focused on FUN. Back in March and April, it seemed that Zoom trivia nights and driveway happy hours were prevalent, but for most people they’ve fallen off as we’ve gotten used to new schedules. Bring some of this stuff back!
- Making a habit to ask yourself “who should this person meet?” when you are spending time with people. Think of this as exercising your connector muscles.
Effective networking is about PEOPLE, not POSITION.
My typical coaching client is a professional with 15+ years of experience, but who isn’t in the executive suite. Most of them are hesitant to connect with someone they think is too senior. <Sigh>
Remember, the Vice President in Charge of Almost Everything is also a real live person who lives on planet Earth. They put their pants on one leg at a time. And the truly successful ones did not get where they are by only being willing to talk to big shots in their industry.
You can make networking about people instead of position by seeking out….
- People significantly more experienced or higher on the food chain than you.
- People much more junior than you in your field.
- People from completely different industries.
- People who do similar work to you, but in a different country.
- People who have NOTHING in common with you professionally but share a hobby.
The networking lifestyle is about serving people and building relationships. Investing a little time and energy in it goes a long way no matter what is happening in the world.
And once you get used to it, it’s actually fun – no matter where you are!
About the Author
Diana Alt is a connector and problem solver who loves to use the skills she’s gathered throughout 20+ years in corporate product development roles to help people manage their careers and business. Diana helps people get out of their own way so they can unleash their awesomeness on the world. She’s guided by the principle that work should feel GOOD, not like a long slow march towards oblivion. Diana can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at https://www.linkedin.com/in/dianakalt/