Networking During Quarantine: 9 Tips and Tricks to Make Useful Connections
By Space Coast Daily // May 25, 2021
Networking used to be so much easier before the pandemic, you might think. Now, there are no water cooler chats or conferences to meet new people and catch up with acquaintances.
The main difference between networking then and now is that you have to be more proactive than ever. You won’t just bump into people anymore. You need to pick up your phone or shoot an email or a text message just to stay in touch.
Job search isn’t just about what skills to put on resume or how to write a cover letter. You may not like it, but knowing the right people is essential to job hunting, even more so than sending out your resume to recruiters and browsing online job boards.
As challenging as it may seem, though, it doesn’t have to be. Here are 9 tips and tricks to help you make networking effortless in pandemic times.
Make a Commitment
Whether you’re on a job hunt or not, the network you build and maintain now will help you in the future. You might get an offer with a better salary or more fulfilling duties. So, it’s an investment worth your while, even if you’re still employed.
To keep yourself on track, set up measurable goals per day or week. For example, commit to reaching out to three new contacts via email or keeping in touch with three acquaintances every day.
That said, keep in mind that it’s fine to take a break from networking. So, don’t be too hard on yourself.
Get Back in Touch with People You Already Know
If you’re a novice in all things networking, the first step you should take is freshening up your existing contacts. There are probably a bunch of former fellow students or colleagues you’ve fallen out of touch with over the years.
So, find them on social media and offer to go on a virtual lunch or cup of coffee to catch up. If they’re still living under lockdown, you can be almost 100% certain they’ll agree. After all, lockdown means a lack of social interaction.
Reach Out to Strangers
It may feel scary because they might say “no.” While there is a chance that happens, that’s not a good reason to avoid doing that.
Start with friends of your friends. Most likely, if you ask around, you’ll get some references for people who work in occupations you dream of. Reaching out to these individuals is easy as 1-2-3:
■ write them an email or a message:
■ tell them who gave you their contact information;
■ briefly present yourself and explain why you seek their advice;
■ offer to meet up via a video call;
■ follow-up if there’s no answer within several days;
■ if they agree, get on the call!
Participate in Online Discussions
This is how you can find someone outside your social circle whose brains are worth picking. It’s also a way to demonstrate your own experience and build up a reputation.
So, scoot the Internet for industry-specific forums and LinkedIn and Facebook groups. Keep in mind: it’s quality, not the quantity, that matters. Oftentimes, groups with the most productive discussions and a convivial vibe are the ones that have fewer members.
Once you’re in, participate in existing discussions and start new ones. Over time, you’ll get to know other forum or group members, and they’ll get to know you.
Suggest engaging in a group or one-on-one virtual party or dinner. What happens then can be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Take Part in Online Events
Do you miss in-person conferences and forums? You’re not alone. That’s why, due to the demand, plenty of events have moved online. Some of them are paid, others are free, but all of them are a great way to learn from others’ experiences and meet like-minded people.
Online events come with certain limitations, of course. There won’t be coffee breaks to chat with a person or two in the meantime. Instead, there will likely be a group chat for all participants.
Make the most out of it and suggest grabbing a cup of coffee over Skype to those with whom you seem to have clicked.
What’s more, you can network with the speakers of those events, too! Reach out to them later on, compliment their speech on that event, and ask if you could pick their brain over a video call.
Seek Advice, Not a Dream Job Offer
Don’t treat your video or phone call meeting like a job interview. The person you’ve reached out to isn’t a recruiter – they’re an advisor, someone to learn from (and someone who could learn from you).
So, ask them for professional growth advice, not a job offer. Otherwise, they’ll feel used.
Of course, you should prepare a short, one-minute presentation about who you are and what you want. But that’s it.
After giving them the gist of it, seek their wisdom and expertise. Ask them about their career and training, how they got that far, and what tips and tricks could come in handy in your particular case.
Adapt to Others’ Preferences
This one should go without saying, but still, when you invite someone on a call, agree to what’s convenient for them. If they prefer Skype over Zoom, use Skype. If they suggest a certain time, don’t be picky (unless you can’t make it, of course).
Find Alternatives to Pre-Pandemic Treats
Before lockdowns and business shutdowns, what setting would you suggest for a meeting? That’s right; you’d offer to go to a café or restaurant.
While it’s probably impossible to get together like that in the near future, you can still treat someone to a cup of coffee or lunch while you talk.
How? Send them a Starbucks or UberEats coupon in advance.
Just Check In
Networking isn’t about what others can do for you. It’s about building strong personal relationships with a variety of people in different jobs and positions. So, don’t treat them as a resource – it’ll show.
Instead, aim for forging long-lasting relationships. And what makes any relationship, well, a relationship? It’s staying in touch. So, remember to check in with your contacts every once in a while.
In pandemic times, it translates into “shoot a message to a friend/coworker/acquaintance every once in a while.” Don’t wait until someone writes you – be the first one to offer to catch up.