“How do I network professionally in this time of COVID19?”
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The new normal means far fewer big social events like trade shows and professional conferences where you can meet your colleagues (and competition) in the same industry and make new connections. Social distancing has ended small talk that leads to those crucial new opportunities.
However, you can take this opportunity to network professionally in a different way, through smaller and more personable settings. To learn how, let’s take another look at the fundamental principles behind professional networking.
Many of us regard professional networking purely as a way to create new sales leads for our organisations or seek new work opportunities for ourselves.
Realign this worldview to what a professional network really can be! A professional network is a social community first, where people within the network give, share, and connect. It’s a community that can help you engage with others, from validating and endorsing them, to advising and supporting each other.
Thus engaging in real professional networking requires intentional effort from you to cultivate and build relationships with others. It goes beyond just making a simple social media connection—it requires you to give of yourself and your resources to the people in your network. The principle of reciprocity will then take over and a pay-it-forward effect will become visible.
All these efforts will require time investment and there is no shortcut to it. But the rewards are much better than a superficial exchange of business cards or a quick connect on LinkedIn could ever be.
Now you understand the potential of real professional networks, here are three ways you can network in this pandemic era.
- Leverage LinkedIn
LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional networking platform and it has a plethora of features that facilitates real engagement between persons. Besides making the usual connection, learn to cultivate relationships with people in your LinkedIn network. The LinkedIn Messenger feature allows you to send greetings, share resources and opportunities in a personal way.Follow hashtags about topics, industries that you are keen on and join LinkedIn groups that help to bring you closer to people who share similar interests.If there isn’t one, you can simply form your own and invite others into your group and start building a network from there.
- Produce content and be knownWith no big name events to bring people together, your professional brand becomes even more important to draw in people to you. Your professional brand tells people about your skills, expertise and personality.The best way to do this is to regularly produce content in the form of knowledge, opinions and advice related to your professional brand. Social media platforms like LinkedIn will become your stage to showcase your professional brand when you actively share your opinions, views by creating your own postings, commentary on recent developments and writing long form articles.Don’t neglect traditional platforms such as trade and industry associations, alumni networks as well as topical interest groups as a place to share what you know and what you have learnt with others too.
- Engage actively, be interested personallyRemote meetings have spread like wildfire, even in countries like Singapore where face to face meetings used to be the default meeting mode. Video tools like FaceTime, Google Meet, Zoom, WebEx have become the norm. They facilitate group and personal engagement with people without requiring significant time, cost and travel expenses.For group engagements, seek to bring people together on a regular basis to discuss and share about topics of common interest. You can also explore online events organised on Facebook and MeetUp to engage people who share similar interests.For personal engagements, make an effort to have short check-in conversations with the people you’re calling that are about more than just your work. These people may include people you met in school, through work, hobby and social groups or even new acquaintances you met online. Check in with them about their work, life and family over video to understand and build a relationship with the person you are engaging and offer help and support if it’s something within your means.Remember that a relationship takes time to build so make it a regular affair.
Don’t let the pandemic dampen your network. Make the most of the new tools, platforms and methods for digital engagement to keep your professional networking fresh and growing.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gerald Tan, Hatch Asia Consulting, is a certified career service provider and a verified Master of Career Services by the National Career Development Association (NCDA).
Gerald enjoys developing career development interventions, services and consultancy to help individuals and groups with varying career needs on a systemic level. As an experienced Career Developer, he supports career needs, working with various schools, companies and non profit organisations on career development projects to support students, employees and beneficiaries.
He has deep knowledge about the career transitions and understanding how employers and job seekers need to work together to facilitate career transitions.
Hatch Asia Consulting is a Talent Solutions Provider solving talent challenges in the area of sourcing and building career success. Contact us at www.hatchasiaco.com today.