ADVICE

Networking virtually during a global pandemic

SOURCE: Chandan Khanna / AFP
Utilising technology can strengthen your professional network.


By U2B Staff 

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As businesses continue to adapt and evolve with the new realities of remote work in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, professionals are left relying on virtual networking to facilitate office social behaviors. That ranges anywhere from staying in touch with team members to forging new work relationships. For many working from their home office, the need to be social goes beyond work — it can help mitigate the creeping feelings of isolation.

Afternoon coffees, happy hour drinks and other activities are largely on hold and that’s left networking options limited almost entirely to online interactions. For some, the transition can be challenging; for others, online communication can be an effective way to strengthen professional networks.

Earlier this year, The Wall Street Journal noticed a lockdown trend: “The inability to be with friends and loved ones who aren’t under the same roof during a stressful and scary time has pushed individuals to be creative with technology that is more often used for business meetings.”

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Creating and maintaining virtual relationships is now fundamental to business success, mental health and even professional growth. It is important to utilise technology, embracing it to connect with peers and build new relationships to ensure continued progress. For those who are finding the transition to be challenging, here are a few tips to get started:

Figure out what you are looking to gain from networking

A better relationship with your colleagues? More connections in the field? New opportunities? It is important to determine your goals, and set an intention before actively networking.

Start with people you know

Reach out to people you already know who can help you achieve your goals  — or can connect you with people who will. Consider colleagues, friends or family members. Networking does not have to mean attending events and interacting with strangers, it could also mean learning more from your friends or family members who are already in the field, or are successful in their own.

Another smart tip is to reach out to your college or university’s career centre and enquire on alumni who are on the same professional path. Maintain and nurture these relationships, which brings us to another point — 

Schedule Zoom calls

Face to face communication will always help enhance connections. Check-in with friends, family members and team mates the way you would in person, but over Zoom. Yes, it may not be the same but keeping up a social routine is important. Be sure to maintain a robust virtual social calendar. 

Attend virtual events

According to Forbes, with most people sheltering in place, the majority of events have quickly adapted to digital platforms in order to bring communities together over the internet.

Many conferences and similar events are being conducted virtually this year. Websites like Event Brite and World Conference Alerts make signing up easier and can help keep you up to date.

These events are set up creatively to present opportunities for participants to network within the online event, as they would in person at physical events. By making it a point to attend these events, you will be able to gain industry insight from leaders in the field while developing connections with like minded individuals.

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And finally … please update your LinkedIn profile

If you have yet to utilise your LinkedIn profile, this is the best time to start maximising your presence on that platform. LinkedIn currently has over 600 million members, including 303 million active monthly users and unlike other social media platforms, LinkedIn is designed specifically for business networking. 

As many as 63 million decision-makers are using the platform, which means you will be putting your information in front of people who decide on behalf of their companies.

By updating your profile, LinkedIn notifies everyone in your network, inviting current connections and potential employers to see what you are up to and learn more about your current interests. Another helpful tip would be to look through your existing connections and reach out to anyone in your field that you never considered could be of assistance.