Networking: Pandemic Edition

Key Takeaways:

  • Taking action now will leave you in a stronger position to reboot your career once the critical period has passed.
  • Especially in times of crisis, we need to feel connected to other people.
  • Genuine networking is about showing up as our best selves. It’s connecting with generosity.
  • Lay the groundwork now for when the recovery begins and more people start needing what you have to offer.
  • Become a leader within your own network. Be the person everyone wants to work with.

Wow.

Covid-19 does not mess around.

The speed at which our lives have been transformed has felt surreal. I am absolutely on board with flattening the curve; if social isolation keeps our healthcare services from being overwhelmed, I am all in. But the shutting down has also meant that many people — maybe you — are suddenly facing an uncertain workplace and financial repercussions for weeks or even months to come.

The fear is real. But it does not have to be paralyzing.

Taking action now will leave you in a stronger position to reboot your career later.

Even more important, networking can provide both you and those you care about with the social support to weather this storm.

This is the good news: at heart, networking is connecting. You don’t need to shake hands to generously and authentically reach out.

Start in Your Own Head

Deciding that you are going to show up in the spirit of love and support is a crucial first step. If you have to, prep by writing down three things you’re grateful for right now or two funny stories you could share. Get in a good head space so that when you reach out, you are coming from a positive place. (This isn’t just for pandemics, by the way. I often talk about prepping how you want to be seen in professional situations. Positive energy is always the way to go.)

Pick up Your Phone

The numbers on your phone are your family and friends; your inner circle. Start by reaching out to them to see how they’re doing. Now more than ever, we all crave reassurance, we want to know we are loved, that we are connected.

Especially in times of crisis, we need to feel connected to other people.

Text or call five of your closest friends or family members. Send a virtual hug, ask them how they’re doing. Have a tight-knit group? Send a group text with something uplifting or funny, just to give everyone a low-key way to touch base. Tomorrow, rinse and repeat, reaching out to five more people, a wider circle of friends, until you’ve reconnected with everyone in your phone book. Call your mom.

I sometimes get pushback from clients who don’t think of friends and family as part of their network because they “can’t help them.” But they are wrong. The value of close ties is enormous, not because your Aunt Jean or your BFF Darryl can get you a job with Chase Bank, but because they love and support you. These are the folks who will let you borrow their car, proofread your résumé , and speak well of you to others. You should never discount the power of the people who are in your corner.

Now is your chance to give back. This is a moment in time when every single person in your phone book needs reassurance — a little kindness, a little attention, a reminder that they matter to someone. This is an opportunity for you to step into your best self and be that warm, caring voice on the other end of the phone.

Genuine networking is about showing up as our best selves. It’s connecting with generosity.

Why wouldn’t you want to start with the people you love?

Take to Email

Start each day by sending a personal e-mail to three people in your larger circle. These can be current or former co-workers, clients, and colleagues from every stage of your life. All you want to do is touch base. Ask how they’re doing. Let them know you’re thinking of them. If you read or watched something you thought might interest them, ideally NOT pandemic-related, send the link. Don’t talk about yourself in this initial e-mail; it can literally be just a sentence or two. “Thinking of you and hoping you’re well.” Stay upbeat.

Some will write you back, some won’t. Don’t make that mean anything; many people will be having a very hard time over the next few weeks. All you’re doing with these emails is offering a point of contact with someone, opening a door if they would like to connect. Simply sending positive energy to others is a way to show you care and to be of service.

Widen Your Circle

In addition to strengthening existing ties, you can build new connections from your home computer. Start digging into blogs that cover your industry. Find people who do the work you are interested in, or who would be potential clients or colleagues. Read their blogs. Deeply. Take notes. Figure out what makes them unique and what you would have to offer, either as an employee or consultant or vendor, specifically to them. You’re not going to pitch yourself now, but it will help you determine how you want to be seen in this space.

Lay the groundwork now for when the recovery begins and people start needing what you have to offer.

Aim for a list of 30-40 blogs that genuinely interest you, bookmark them on your browser, and check them every day. Whenever there’s a new post, read it and comment. Not simply a “thank you,” but a thoughtful response, either to the post itself or to someone else’s comment. Be helpful. Share posts on social media and tag the bloggers. Become part of the community.

Lead with Generosity

Finally, where can you be a leader? Can you organize a group of your friends in a virtual mastermind group, to brainstorm and support each other’s careers? Can you record a video of yourself showing people how to fix something in their house in case they can’t get an outside expert during the next couple of weeks? Yo-Yo Ma is recording and posting music under the hashtag #SongsofComfort and musicians all over the world are joining in. Museums are offering virtual field trips, nurses are posting instructions on how to care for yourself if you come down with the coronavirus, and professionals — including me* — are offering to Skype into virtual classrooms to help teachers who suddenly have to move their entire curriculum online.

Become a leader within your own network. Be the person everyone wants to work with.

How can you share your expertise in a way that the world needs right now?

Let us know in the comments. I look forward to connecting.

Be well.

Laura

*If you are a high school or college teacher and would like to have me talk to your class about how to build a network before you graduate or how to find your first job, e-mail me at Laura@PitchingPerfectly.com and we’ll set it up. No charge. We’re all in this together.