Business is on hold due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Much of America is either piecing together a strategy to work remotely from home or readying to join the (virtual) unemployment line. With so much uncertainty surrounding our economy and the jobs outlook moving forward – and the majority of the country confined to the home – there’s not a lot to be done on the networking front, right?
Wrong, say experts. In fact, now is the ideal time to make connections with current and future clients, vendors, coworkers, and perhaps even potential employers. While many companies and individuals alike are focusing on staying above water until the current threat passes, once the hiring and buying process begins in earnest again, we may see a distinct separation between those who have continued to participate in the business conversation and those who spent quarantine hunkering down and waiting for opportunities to come to them.
Virtual Networking Tips
So, how can you network during this time of social distancing? Thankfully, the internet has provided us with more ways to stay in touch than ever. Here are a few key ways you can network throughout the COVID-19 crisis:
- Reach out via video conference. Sure, videoconferencing existed before social distancing swept the nation. However, between virtual schoolrooms, virtual office meetings and even virtual cocktail hours, the demand for video conferencing services has surged. In fact, the popular Zoom app was downloaded over 600,000 times in one day in March 2020. Currently, video conferencing via Zoom, Facetime, Skype, or Google Hangouts is one of the only ways to truly make a personal connection with your contacts.Just be sure to use this method with consideration for those on the receiving end and schedule meetings in advance so others have time to prepare. It’s also important not to over utilize the service, as Susan Ascher mentioned in a recent Inside Hook article: “In this age in which everybody is texting and emailing and not wanting to pick up the phone, all of a sudden, everybody wants to Zoom! It’s an oxymoron. Maybe that Zoom call could just be a phone call!” She cautions against wearing out your videoconferencing welcome: “There’s just a time and a place for it: Not every single chat wants to become a Zoom.”
- Update your networking profiles. With the world experiencing more time online than ever before, now is the time to make sure your LinkedIn and other networking profiles are up to date for recruiters, potential employers, colleagues and more. Ensure your recommendations are comprehensive – at least 4 to 5, according to experts – and at least one is relatively recent. Update your photo, fine-tune your experiences, and make an overall effort to represent yourself professionally online.
- Participate in forums. Online forums are quickly becoming 2020’s social-distancing-friendly answer to the business conference. Through a forum, you can glean advice from industry experts, gather insights from peers, find new resources, and perhaps even share some of your own. Better still, you’ll make connections within your business circle and open up to opportunities in other circles.
As difficult as these times are for businesses and America’s workers alike, it’s more important than ever to stay actively engaged with your career. Fortunately, virtual networking provides us with a way to maintain current connections, and even make new ones that could continue to show benefits once COVID-19 is behind us.