Networking During COVID

by Holly Thompson & Amira Sounny-Slitine

While networking can sound intimidating at first, don’t worry - we’ve got you covered!

 

WHAT IS NETWORKING?

You’ve probably heard the word “networking” a lot. Simply put, networking is building relationships and rapport with people. Not just the people you know directly, but it also includes connections of the people you already know. For example, a LinkedIn connection might know someone in the field you're interested in and could possibly make an introduction. This has been coined as second connections on LinkedIn. Second connections broaden your network and can potentially get you additional insight into a specific role or company you are interested in.

 

Networking can be much more effective than just blasting your resume out to every job posting  you find because knowing someone inside the company who is willing to speak on your behalf can be a great way to get noticed (and hopefully an interview) in a sea of applicants!

 

Ideally, you want to build relationships and create new connections before you need to. That way you have a strong network when you need it. With that being said, there is never a bad time to network!

 

WHAT’S DIFFERENT NOW?

The biggest difference between networking before and during COVID-19 is that face to face meetings aren’t as common for safety reasons. Before, you could ask to take someone out for coffee and chat. Now, it’s yet another virtual meeting or phone call. Be mindful that people may want to help, but they could be fatigued from staring at a screen all day.  

 

Your network of friends and past coworkers may want to help you find employment, and they could be open to referring you, but there might not be a lot of jobs available at their company during this pandemic. Try and stay patient, and continue to nourish that relationship so your connections can continue to keep you in mind as jobs start opening back up.

WHERE TO NETWORK

Sometimes, it can be difficult to ask for help. Start with people who know you and want to support you:

  • Friends and people in your contacts (and friends of your friends!)

  • Past coworkers you had a good relationship with

  • Hobby groups (book club, golfing buddies, etc)

  • Church

  • Social Media - Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

  • Slack channels

  • Meetup.com

  • Eventbrite.com

  • LinkedIn

  • Professional associations or online groups

  • Virtual Events - up 1000% since COVID-19

  • Webinars

  • Alumni

  • Volunteering

 

STARTING CONVERSATIONS 

  • Starting conversations can feel awkward and uncomfortable for some. Try to think about how you would feel if someone messaged you and how you would respond. This can help you craft a sincere message with the proper tone that you want to send. 

  • Start by asking how they are - genuinely. The pandemic has affected everyone differently and has been detrimental to some. Check in with them and see how they’re handling the pandemic. (Ex: Do they have family returning to school? Has anything changed with their job?)

  • Some other topics for discussion could be the things you have in common. Did you attend the same university or school? Do you know someone in common? Do you both do charity or volunteer work? If you can’t find anything in common, you can always compliment them on their career track record you find on LinkedIn, and then use that as a transition into asking questions about how they’ve been so successful. 

  • If you’re reaching out to someone you don’t know, introduce yourself and explain why you’re messaging them. Keep in mind, it can come across as aggressive or even rude to ask for a favor (like a referral) right away. Remember, the purpose of networking is to build relationships.

  • Not everyone will respond, and that’s ok. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re ignoring you; they might not have received your message for a multitude of reasons. Or maybe they saw it and then forgot. Try to give people the benefit of the doubt, and focus on growing your network with other people. You can circle back around with someone you sent a message to about a week or two after waiting for a response, just be sure that you don’t come across as pushy

  • Send individual, customized messages instead of copying and pasting the same message to everyone. It’s easy to make a mistake, (like forgetting to change out the name) if you’re copying the same message and resending it to others. Not to mention,  a cookie-cutter message is easy to pick up on and just as easy to ignore.

  • Once you’ve made a connection with someone, schedule a time for a career conversation by phone or virtually.

LOOKING FORWARD

Networking goes both ways! You might find yourself in a position where you can help others in the future. Helping others when you’re able to can mean the world to someone and also strengthen that relationship for the long haul. You never know when you’ll need your network again,  so it’s important to maintain your relationships throughout your career.