What once involved meeting for coffee or chatting at an industry event has turned into Zoom calls and LinkedIn messages.
Communicators must still grow their network during COVID-19, but how can you accomplish this virtually? Content creator and influencer Camille Johnson recently shared on Career Hacks’ YouTube channel several helpful tips to connect and strengthen your network while you work from home.
Here are a few things you can do today to network virtually during COVID-19:
1. Lean on existing connections.
If you have a specific person you’d like to speak with, look at your mutual connections on LinkedIn or Twitter, and ask for an introduction. Reach out to your existing network and ask if there’s anyone they could recommend as well, being as specific as possible.
In the video, Lizz, an actress and professional college mentor, offers this advice:
Think of your network almost like a family tree. It should never stop with just one. And say, “Listen, this is what I’m wanting to do, do you know anybody you think I should connect with?” And then, if you go meet that person, ask them the same question. Let this network grow.
Don’t forget to return the favor by recommending others connect. It can be as simple as tagging both on a social media platform and calling out a mutual interest or topic of focus.
2. Turn to social media.
As people stay at home during COVID-19, they’re increasingly turning to digital media channels to connect with one another. There are many ways to find people on social media, including checking out a trending topic on Twitter for clever insights or joining a LinkedIn or Facebook livestream and connecting with the host and guests after.
“LinkedIn is designed to network and to hustle,” guest Aman says in the video.
Many communicators are taking part in webinars and other virtual events to share their insights and case studies as we seek to respond to the COVID-19 and social justice crises, as well as better connect with both consumers and employees. These can also be a goldmine for networking. Mention that you appreciated their thoughts when you send your messages.
3. Conduct informational interviews.
These can be a great way to get your foot in the door to an organization you really like or a person with whom you’d like to know more. It can be more formal or a casual chat, hosted publicly on social media or in private through a phone or video call. Do your research in advance, however.
“Really know the specifics about the person’s career,” digital media consultant Michael tells Johnson. “It’s about them—it’s not about you.”
Sports agent Yulin adds that you should also ask a lot of “curious, authentic” questions during the interview.
If you write about the interview or post it on social media, make sure to tag the person and promote the insights shared. Do not treat information interviews as ways to get free advice, when you should pay for a consultant or hire an expert. Asking a person to explain a facet of their job or a topic is one thing—soliciting a “pick your brain” session can be insulting.
4. Mind your manners.
Similar to a thank-you note or email following a job interview, send your appreciation to those joining your network, especially when they’ve taken the time to answer questions for you or recommend a resource or another connection.
Ellen HardenWard, creative director for Memphis Tourism, tells Johnson:
Let people know that you’re grateful they took the time. People remember that.
If you know your connection’s physical address, you can also support the United States Post Office by mailing a thank-you note. Apps such as Felt also support the process, but do the stamping, addressing and sending for you.