Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many traditional networking options were no longer viable. Getting together en masse as a conference was, at a minimum, risky, if not outright banned in some states.
As a result, many professionals began to wonder if networking should take a back seat. This was especially true for those who didn’t lose their job to a coronavirus layoff.
While it may seem like networking shouldn’t be a priority during a pandemic, that isn’t necessarily the case. If you are wondering why you should continue networking and how you can pull it off while respecting social distancing requirements, here’s what you need to know.
Why Networking Is Necessary During a Pandemic
For many professionals, networking has become a bit transactional. The core concept has been to maintain connections to ensure that, when they needed help finding a new job down the line, they had people to turn to for assistance.
However, networking provides value beyond referrals. It’s an opportunity to connect with others, share stories, receive guidance, and offer support. Networking allows people to strengthen relationships, something that can be incredibly important during unique times, such as these.
Essentially, networking shouldn’t be viewed purely in the context of immediate professional needs. Instead, it should be about long-term success and mutual value, coupled with a sense of reciprocity within the relationship. That means cultivating increasingly strong connections that benefit both parties in a variety of ways.
How to Network During a Pandemic
While going to conferences or large-scale meetups may not be practical or possible today, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other opportunities to network. Virtual gatherings can be just as beneficial. Plus, they allow everyone to focus on safety.
Many professional organizations are hosting a range of online gatherings. You may be able to attend a webinar or interact with a panel, for example. In these cases, the meetings are usually focused on information sharing and learning, but often have a bit of an interactive or social component, as well.
You can also engage with existing members of your networking on social media. Use the platform’s integrated messenger features to have casual check-in conversations with your current connections. Find out how they are doing professionally, and offer support if appropriate.
Consider grabbing a cup of coffee together virtually. With this, you can schedule a time for a quick video chat, allowing you to mimic the casual experience of getting together at a local café, all while remaining at home.
Expanding your network is also a possibility. You can find new potential connections by exploring your second- or third-degree contacts, for example. Additionally, you may be able to tap your alumni network, as well, an approach that comes with the automatic icebreaker of graduating from the same school.
Ultimately, networking is still as important today as it ever was, even if you aren’t actively seeking out referrals. By focusing on relationship building, you can ensure that your connections remain strong and that everyone (including you) has the support they need during these unprecedented times.