By Cari Frame, Career Coach
Things have dramatically changed in the professional world in the last year. Working from home, fewer in-person events, half-empty office towers, masks donned, removed, and donned again, and, of course, video meeting fatigue.
To find your next best career move, you must network.
Despite all the change and upheaval, one thing has never been more true.
Truly effective networking that results in them recommending you to others can only happen if the other person feels strongly connected to you. To achieve that, they must see you or hear you or both.
Networking, (as I am referring to it in this article), is defined specifically as events in which you connect directly to another person. You are taking the connection out of the text space (email, text, IM) and into real life. Truly effective networking that results in them recommending you to others can only happen if the other person feels strongly connected to you. To achieve that, they must see you or hear you or both. There are a plethora of scientific studies proving this. Here is a link from Forbes Insights to name just one.
Economies are slowly stabilizing and regaining momentum.
Jobs are being posted in greater numbers, but nearly 80% of career opportunities are still found through network connections rather than just online submissions. Companies would rather hire someone they know, or someone who is known by someone they trust, than strictly through a public job posting. Unlike nepotism, networking is only effective when people know you AND what you are capable of as a professional. You get interviews and job offers because hiring managers feel doubly assured that you are who they have heard you are and that who your resume asserts.
But in a semi-socially distanced world in where restrictions are gradually loosening and people are choosing how to fulfill their own sense of public safety, how can you network effectively? Each of us are in our own state of social flux, deciding what feels right, safe, and necessary. Some people are quitting their jobs when asked to come back into an in-person office setting. Others are running back to restaurants, malls, and offices, ready to mingle freely. Most of us are somewhere in the middle, changing our minds with each new choice and situation.
If you are in a career transition right now, it can be extremely tricky to navigate networking in this post-pandemic world.
Here are some Do’s and Don’ts from a Career Coach who specializes in networking.
- Decide on what types of connections you are comfortable with and only offer those options to your networking partners. No need to apologize or justify to others, your personal choice is as valid as anyone else’s. The most highly-rated networking options to connect are:
- Face-to-face, in-person, inside meeting (e.g. coffee shop, restaurant, office)
- In-person outside meeting (e.g. walk-and-talk, park, patio)
- Phone call
- Online video call (e.g. Zoom, Teams, Skype, Google Meet)
- Offer each person you connect with a chance to meet you via one of your connection options from #1. People really appreciate choice and forthrightness, so give them both.
- Take your networking out of the text space and into real life as quickly as you can. Very little meaningful connection gets completed in the “text” space. So think of email, text, or IM as a jumping-off point to get you both to a real connection event. Once you have begun a text conversation, give them your connection options with a couple times you are available in the next few days. This makes it extremely convenient and straight-forward for the recipient to say yes.
- Set an intention that, no matter how you “meet,” the person leaves the meeting feeling connected to you and with a greater understanding of who you are as a professional. (This includes sharing what you can offer to a future employer, what specifically you are looking for, how they can help you find and secure that, and highlighting your key selling points in that regard.) Interest must go both ways for connection to happen.
- If you do meet them in person, and you are comfortable removing your mask, ask them what they are comfortable with and follow their lead if it is more restrictive than your own. Same goes for handshaking and hugging – be up-front about what you are comfortable with and ask them as well. This can avoid the highly awkward almost-handshake moments, where each person offers and retracts their hand, and everyone is left wanting to turn and run from the weirdness.
- Once the ground-rules are established, relax, and connect. Focus on updating them on your career goals and moves and asking them about their work and company. Find common ground and let them get to know you, and you them.
- Do not assume your safety choices are the best ones and whomever you have network meetings with should go along with your preferences. (See Do’s #1)
- Avoid discussing pandemic-based personal decisions as that can get political in a hurry which will detract immensely from the success of the meeting. Some topics to consider avoiding are:
- Are you vaccinated? How do you feel about vaccines?
- Do you agree with the (past or current) government restrictions?
- Do you think any of the pandemic was a hoax?
- Do not rush in for a handshake or a hug before knowing how the person feels about that level of social closeness.
- If an online or phone meeting is mutually chosen, do not downgrade the level of professionalism and presence you bring to it. Dress and act as if you are meeting them in-person and in a public place such as a restaurant. Prepare your space and yourself to show respect and appreciation for their time and effort.
- Remember to set up a follow-up connection plan. Bear in mind that what they are comfortable with now may change in the future so check in with them again about their preferences then.
We are all more acutely aware of the value of connection now, and are making it a priority in our lives, personally and professionally.
With conscientiousness and mutual consideration, post-pandemic networking has the potential to be even more effective that pre-pandemic.
We are all more acutely aware of the value of connection now, and are making it a priority in our lives, personally and professionally. People are more flexible in their ideas of what a “meeting” is, and a 15-minute Zoom chat can be slotted in to even the busiest person’s schedule. When done with consistency and integrity, current methods of networking can be even more effective than traditional methods. Choose the options that feel best for you and commit to building genuine, mutual connection and bringing value on a regular basis. Your next best career will surely follow.
This blog was written by Toombs Inc., Arbora’s partner in Canada.