Professional Networking in the Age of COVID-19
As business professionals, we all know the importance of networking and how it can be pivotable to our career success. Taking the time out of our busy schedules to attend a luncheon, seminar, conference, or happy hour is something we’ve all been accustomed to doing. However, the COVID-19 pandemic put a drastic halt on in-person networking events, which has always been the preferred method of building relationships. To be candid, the pandemic has made many things we used to take for granted, like face-to face interaction, very challenging. We’ve seen cancelled conferences, shifts to remote work, and fewer opportunities to be engaged in-person.
We’ve watched the world make a gradual transition back to the “new normal”, but we’re still dealing with masks and social distancing in many cases. Professional networking and personal growth are still crucial, if not more so then ever. So, how do we adapt to these changes? What will this new normal in the business world look now and how do we navigate it?
Let’s discuss the top 4 ways for making professional connections during the existence of COVID-19.
BUILD YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE
During the peak of COVID-19, networking moved almost entirely online. Social media quickly became more important than ever for making professional connections. Also, let’s be honest, the days of looking at employment ads in the newspaper, or simply applying to a job ad are no longer the desired ways to get a job. More often, you’ll see that it’s who you know, that can get your name and resume to the right person. Embracing social media is a great way to connect with old colleagues, alumni, and for making new connections. LinkedIn and Facebook are two of the top sites to have a presence on. Recruiters prowl on these sites to find talent, don’t get left out!
With 849.6 million users around the world, this is a site you want to have a strong presence on. Your LinkedIn profile is a professional page for you to manage your personal brand and connections. Start by connecting with people in the same industry as you, and industries you may want to be apart of. Connect with peers, follow companies and influencers you have an interest in. Engage in posts, start creating dialogue on topics that are important to you. The stronger your connections, the more visibility you will have within your network
Tips for creating a strong profile
- Add a professional profile picture – Research has shown that a good profile picture increases the credibility of your profile and makes it more personalized.
- Create a strong “professional summary headline” – This is the area to let your experience shine. Provide a brief overview of your experience and highlight skills.
- Complete the work and education section thoroughly. Providing job responsibilities and accomplishments. List your education and any professional licenses and credentials.
- Ask for professional recommendations – Recommendations from past co-workers, bosses or even professors is a great way to further show your creditability. LinkedIn has a feature to ask for recommendations on your profile. Make sure to provide recommendations for others also.
2.9 billion users. Leveraging your existing network of friends and family can be very helpful when it comes to networking. For example, one of the easiest ways is letting your FB network know that you’re looking for a new opportunity. They may know someone that can help make an introduction. It’s also a great source to search for local or virtual networking events. Facebook can be a successful tool for professional networking if used correctly.
Tips for success:
- Upload a professional profile picture.
- Check privacy settings – keeping your profile private will give you control over who has access to your profile and content. It allows you to approve and deny friend requests and keeps your page open to the friends and connections that you want.
- Fill in your professional details – you never know what connections you have that have worked at same places, or places of interest, or that are within your industry.
- Follow groups and pages that are relevant to your interest. This allows you to have access to groups that have similar professional interests as you, which further allows for creating connections.
- Refrain from posting any inappropriate pictures and content. Use discretion and good judgement.
BE OPEN TO COFFEE MEETINGS
Still not ready for large group events? Consider extending and accepting invites for 1:1 or small group coffee meetings. Its completely acceptable to change up the meeting format to make it more comfortable and relaxed. Due to the pandemic, we’ve seen a shift from your typical, business professional office setting, to a more relaxed, business casual setting. Meeting up at a small coffee shop, or small patio is a great way to build connections. Informational interviews with companies you have interest in, is also a great option. Making connections with recruiters is a way to break the ice and ask if they have time for an informational interview. This is a great way to gain valuable insight on what the company typically looks for and gets you insider information on when future opportunities will arise.
JOIN PROFESSIONAL GROUPS & ORGANIZATIONS VIRTUALLY
Every profession has groups & organizations that you can join to keep up with market trends, training and to make connections. For example – SHRM, The Recruiter.com Network, etc. Joining groups that align with your field, can be your “in” to different virtual networking events and panel discussions. You’ll have the ability to make connections worldwide and gain access to a professional network you can leverage at any time. These types of groups are great ways to seek out virtual events and ask for an opportunity to be a part of a panel discussion as a panelist, or for just learning opportunities. It’s also a great way to gain access to virtual conferences and career fairs.
Networking isn’t an overnight process. It takes time and a lot of effort to find and build relationships. Stay active at building your professional network and brand. Set reminders to do casual monthly or quarterly check’s in’s. Keep it simple, reaching out to make small talk, or attending a small group event to show support. People are more willing to help and maintain a relationship, when they see you are doing the same. Stay encouraged.
Written by: Tameka White, Director of Recruitment Services, ConnectedTALENT