The culture of networking has changed after nearly two years of the COVID pandemic and its fallout. Much of society has settled in with the “new-normal” of a virtual or remote world. Although the methods of networking have changed, the principles remain the same:
Over 80% of people, both those seeking employment and not, prefer to meet someone in person. With such limited opportunity for face-time and a smaller pool of resources, now more than ever it’s important to maximize your networking scene. By being more selective about who and where you network, your odds of success are higher. Intentionality and drive are attractive; you want to be in a position to not only put your best foot forward, but keep it there.
Spend some time to really think about what you want (and need) from the person you are reaching out to. Time is incredibly valuable. Don’t waste yours, and particularly don’t waste theirs. Dig into the trends and current events of the field you are interested in and come with questions to be explored. Preparing for the event is just as important as actually showing up.
Give your knowledge, respect, goals and support. Virtually “walking” into any networking space with your attention only set on yourself is a sure-fire way to miss some amazing opportunities. Learn about what others have to offer, what their goals are and where you could help or fill in the gaps. Even in the pursuit of furthering your own career, you need to understand how you and your peers can work together, not solely how they can serve you. Which leads us to…
Aim to create long-term peer relationships. Recent studies show that fewer than 35% of network attendees remain in contact with their new connections outside of social media platforms. Networking in its truest form is an investment in your professional rolodex with the goal of business, performance or knowledge growth. A simple “follow” or “like” doesn’t move either of you forward. Think of the investment in your new peer as an investment in your future as well. Most importantly, any relationship must have opportunities for both parties to benefit.
No matter who you are (or where you are), you can be successful at networking as long as you come prepared, remain authentic and lead with intentionality. The pandemic hasn’t taken away the opportunity to make real, lasting connections within your profession – it’s simply given you a chance to broaden your abilities and stretch your skills, all while wearing sweatpants.