No matter how digital we get, the value of in-person networking isn’t going away. While it’s true that the use of Artificial Intelligence in job recruitment has help companies cast a wide net and then narrow it down quickly, you can always set yourself apart by having a human connection with someone. This sort of connection allows hiring decision makers to know the real you. If a hiring manager just has a slush pile of applications in front of them, having met you, spoken to you or having had a colleague recommend you can quickly differentiate you from the rest of the pack. However, our current health situation has led to some interesting obstacles that make it more difficult to have a human connection. Traditional networking has changed for the foreseeable future, possibly forever.
The Challenges And Opportunities Of Networking In A Pandemic
Around March of 2020, the U.S. became part of a global pandemic when a rapidly spreading, highly contagious virus named COVID-19 began to make itself known to the general public. In order to stop the spread, businesses and events were shuttered overnight and people were made to shelter in place at home for their own safety. Even as things now begin to open back up, the virus is still among us and large venues and in-person meetings remain off the table for now. Prime networking opportunities like conferences and conventions have been canceled and may not be coming back until a vaccine is in place (or at least a reliable treatment for those who become sick). Networking groups aren’t meeting in person. Even smaller face to face meetings like having a cup of coffee with a new business contact can be a challenge.
When you can’t meet face to face you lose the importance of body language and facial expressions. It’s more difficult to make a human connection if you aren’t meeting in person. We’ve also lost the bonding ritual of meeting for coffee or over lunch. You won’t make the same impression over e-mail or text message. So how do we resolve these types of obstacles?
Many conferences, conventions, meetings, and even one-on-ones are now being held via video chat. While it’s not exactly like being in the same room together, it’s the next best thing….so embrace it! One benefit of online networking is that it allows you to scale yourself. It’s efficient and allows you to engage more people, more quickly. You can also be very flexible with meeting times and can hold your meeting from your home office rather than being forced to meet at the next industry conference. Another benefit is that you can prepare in advance for the meeting with targeted research and craft a targeted message to your audience rather than be put on the spot at an external event or conference.
So as we focus on how to successfully adjust and adapt in these rapidly changing times, we want to provide you with 5 healthy reminders on new ways to network when the traditional methods may not be possible.
5 Quick Networking Tips That Work in Today’s Business Environment
1. When connecting to someone new online (via email or via a career platform like LinkedIn), try to use a warm introduction, when possible. Have someone introduce you so that you differentiate yourself from the other solicitations your new contact may be receiving. Professionals are FAR more likely to engage you if you come from someone they trust.
2. Remember that networking is a “give and get” event. Ask yourself what value you are bringing to the meeting. Rather than just ask for something, inquire what you can do to support the goals and needs that you new contact may have. Facilitate the networking of others are a way to broaden your own professional network.
3. Be brief, be bright, be gone. Lengthy emails? No. Long, drawn out introductions? They never work. Say what you have to say quickly and efficiently. This not only increases the likelihood that someone will engage but it shows that you are conscious of their limited bandwidth.
4. Prompt follow-up is now more important than ever. Since most meetings and introductions aren’t taking place face to face, you can easily become an afterthought in a busy professionals day. Reply promptly and if you promise to deliver something of substance to the engagement, make sure you do it quickly.
5. Times have changed. Embrace technology. We are going to have to adapt to a new normal in many areas of our life and this just happens to be one of them. Take the time now to learn how to use video chat technology, Zoom and apps as well as online networking sites like LinkedIn. Don’t learn on the fly while on a call. Be prepared and demonstrate that you’re a professional that can adapt in the face of challenging circumstances.