If there is one practice indispensable to building a successful career in the 21st century, it’s got to be networking. Networking effectively not only provides an excellent avenue to improve professional visibility and exchange ideas, but also helps us forge strong, mutually beneficial relationships that supplement individual and collective successes.
Just how crucial is networking’s role in the job market today? Multiple expert surveys have estimated that upwards of 70% of jobs today are landed through networking. With an ever growing number of vacancies being filled through personal connections at present, networking has never been more important.
Be that as it may, in this unprecedented era of social distancing, many fundamentals of how we approach networking require a thorough rethink.
Let’s understand why. In a global professional atmosphere that is looking increasingly precarious in terms of employment rates and job security (for instance, economists at Goldman Sachs estimated that 2.25 million Americans filed new unemployment claims within the span of one week in March 2020) networking possesses immense utility for companies, professionals and job-seekers.
How then can we re-strategize networking for the post-pandemic phase? Below are some key tips along with a set of dos and don’ts to help you fine-tune your networking strategy, for the times ahead.
Tip 1. Check-in with people you already know
According to global data from the LinkedIn Opportunity Index, where you grow up, where you go to school, and where you work can give you a 12x advantage in gaining access to opportunity. Therefore, going back to your roots might be a great starting point to begin networking effectively in the era of social distancing.
Do not, however, just set up a one-time casual catch-up with acquaintances to learn about opportunities in a one-sided manner.
Instead, take time out to regularly check-in with critical people in your life. Keep them posted about your goings-on. More importantly, make sure you bring your best resources to the table, listen to their concerns and provide information that empowers them to contribute to overall industry growth. Such efforts help vitalize engagement within your personal and professional networks, while potentially putting you in touch with a broader spectrum of opportunities.
A global mental health fallout has been one of the most widespread impacts of Covid-19. Therefore, checking-in with your connections about how they are doing during this tough time might be a good conversation starter. Sharing relevant resources or tips could go a long way in building trust and encouraging collaboration.
Tip 2: Make new 3rd level connections
Often, your network might be more expansive and powerful than you think. Nevertheless, most people fail to take stock of this fact. Therefore, do not just limit yourself to talking to people you already know.
Instead, in times like these, going outside your comfort zone can prove to be crucial. Hence, if you have a 3rd level connection working at a company you’re interested in, send an invite to connect and get started! Focus on the conversation, listen to their takes and share your CV with them once you’ve established rapport.
Sending invites with curated personal messages on LinkedIn can be really helpful. Here is an example of an ice-breaker based on shared interests to get you going: “Hi, hope you are well. I recently read this article and thought it might interest you <insert link> Would be great to connect and listen to your thoughts on it. Please let me know if you’d like that. Have a great day!”
3. Utilize the power of video-conferencing
“Seeing” the person on the other side is an excellent strategy that helps reconnect with people you know (read this excellent article to learn why). Do not, however, try to set-up video calls on short-notice with new connections, or expect people to look perfect on video.
Instead, be considerate. There are multiple free video-conferencing services available, including Zoom, Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Facetime . Consider the preferences of the person(s) you are connecting with, schedule a meeting well in advance, and expect them to look super casual—particularly if they’re working from home.
Proactively seek new ways to make informational resources available to your connections via video or other digital tools. This could include creating a short video series, conducting a mini online workshop or even moderating an online support group, all based on your interests. This way, you can draw more people towards your personal brand and be the glue-person for your expanded network.
4. Join an online forum or a professional group
Even if you are not one to actively follow online discussions or groups, they could still help keep you abreast with the latest developments in your industry. Even so, make sure you don’t sign-up for every professional group you find. Doing so might end up crowding your network with information completely unrelated to your goals.
Instead, find local networking groups that neatly suit your interests. Once you do that, you’ll find group members often sharing notifications for job openings or resources for learning new skills that directly appeal to you.
On LinkedIn, there are countless industry or skill-specific groups to join (UX Professionals for example) that provide targeted workforce solutions and have their own job boards. Dedicate time to exploring your niche interests and begin connecting effectively.
5. Think long-term
Don’t: Do not expect help to arrive immediately.
Do: Offer a helping hand whenever you can, without expecting immediate returns. People tend to reciprocate actively, once you have added value to their lives. Remember, networking is like building an empire. It isn’t a goal, but a continuous action plan that needs strategizing and effort to foster relationships. And in that endeavor, patience is key.
Showing gratitude by sending a job suggestion, sharing industry updates in return for others’ efforts or advice goes a long way.
At the core of networking is the fact that everyone in the room brings value. The best networkers recognize that giving is not a loss, but a gain in the long run. Therefore, in this era of social distancing, mastering networking might just as well come down to flipping the question from “What’s in it for me?” to “How can I help?”
For 17 years, Cogent Infotech Corporation has worked with 65+ Fortune 500 companies, and 70+ government agencies, delivering an economic impact of over $500 million through digital transformation and consulting projects in the USA.