Networking is an important piece of our professional development, and we all need to adapt to the “new normal” way to network during social distancing. For many of us, virtual connections and relationship building is new. We used to be able to meet coworkers at the water cooler, or in face to face meetings. So, meeting other professionals digitally may require you to go outside of your comfort zone. Here are some tips to help you effectively network during this time of social distancing.
First, think about your reason for networking. What do you want to achieve? Do you want to learn from someone who has an impressive skillset, would you like a mentor, or do you just want a friend to support you professionally? How often would you like to network, and with whom? Once you set your goals, you can come up with a plan.
Plan for creative ways to connect virtually. You could set up a virtual coffee chat, a virtual happy hour, or use applications like slack or MS Teams to chat online… How do you feel most comfortable chatting and striking up a new conversation with someone? Think about who you can learn from to achieve your goals: peers, professors, mentors, managers, or even family members and come up with a plan to meet with them.
Reaching out for the initial conversation might feel awkward, but most people will just be happy that you are thinking of them. Many people right now feel secluded, and would be happy to hear from you. This is a great time to connect with one another and encourage each other to reach goals, develop skills, share advice, and make introductions. Everyone craves connection now more than ever, and networking is mutually beneficial, so do not be shy. Connect with someone, and reap the benefits!