How to Network When You’re Not Going Out
With the recent COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, leaders around the world have recommended strong quarantining actions. Many businesses are sending employees home to work. Many of those who don’t have commutes are choosing to stay at home as much as possible.
In these uncertain times, keeping up a strong professional network is paramount. In mid-March, initial claims for state unemployment benefits reached 281,000, the highest level for initial claims since 2017. The claims are directly attributed to coronavirus.
With job security in question, networking is a way to stay connected with industry professionals and remain at top of mind when great opportunities become available. If you’re stuck at home for the unforeseeable future, take some time each day to reinforce your network connections. Use these tips to maintain a solid network that’s there when you need it.
1. Participate on LinkedIn
LinkedIn is an essential network to join if you want more opportunities to grow your career. In March 2020, there were 675 million LinkedIn members in 200 countries and regions worldwide. There were more than 30 million companies on LinkedIn and more than 20 million open jobs on the network.
Ways to use LinkedIn include:
- Optimize your profile for search. Complete each section with keywords that recruiters might be searching for when they’re looking for candidates like you. Add in all your work experience, as well as relevant skills.
- Comment on updates. Take a few minutes each day to scroll through your feed and interact with content. Leave comments with what you think of news that’s posted or personal updates. Doing so 1) connects you with the poster, who will notice your comment; and 2) enables you to form new connections with other people who are also interested in the content.
- Participate in LinkedIn Groups. Join a few LinkedIn Groups that are related to your industry. In LinkedIn Groups, you can share industry-specific news, ask questions and advice, and network with other industry professionals.
If you add new profiles based on common interests, be sure to add a note about why you’re adding the person, especially if you’ve never worked with them before. Otherwise, the person might deny your request and mark “I don’t know this person,” which the network could view as spam.
2. Send a Personalized Note
On LinkedIn and via email, you can send personalized notes to current and former coworkers and connections to see how they’re doing. This helps you deepen existing relationships and reminds your contacts that you’re a caring professional.
Send a few notes a week to people in your network you haven’t connected with recently. Ask them how they’re doing, briefly let them know what you’re up to and then, and this is important, offer to help them. Let them know you appreciate their connection and are there to assist however you can. That might mean an introduction or a referral or simply keeping an eye and ear out for new opportunities they might be a fit for.
Savvy networkers will know when you’re contacting them because you want something from them and when you’re doing so because you genuinely care about the connection. Instead of leading with, “What’s in it for me?”, use online networking to forge mutually beneficial relationships with people you respect.
3. Stay Visible on Social Media
LinkedIn is the social network for professionals, but visibility on other social networks can help you when you’re spending most of your time behind screens instead of out in person. During quarantine, most of our communications are now online. Participate on social media to stay connected with personal (and potentially professional) contacts who might be able to refer you to a job in the future.
- Comment on updates that you find meaningful. Be genuine, caring and honest in your interactions.
- Reshare news and links you think would be helpful to your connections.
- Ask questions to stimulate discussions.
- Spread some positivity during a stressful time. View your personal social network interactions as reflections of how you’d want to be perceived in the workplace.
According to a 2018 CareerBuilder survey, 70% of employers research job candidates’ social media profiles during the hiring process. Be mindful about what you post online. Make sure it represents you in a way that hirers will respect.
4. Set Up a Video Chat
Even when you’re stuck inside, you can still coordinate coffee meetings and happy hours. Set up a video chat service like Zoom on your computer, brew a cup of joe or grab a cocktail, and have some face time with contacts.
Video meetings are effective because much of communication is nonverbal. You can also create more of a human connection by looking into another person’s eyes, seeing them smile and witnessing their physical reaction to your conversation.
If you used to get coffee with a coworker regularly in your office, keep your meeting – just do it virtually. If you had wanted to take a potential mentor to lunch, there’s no need to wait. Get together over video chat.
Setting up video meetings to strengthen connections can make you stand out among those who stick to emails. Another perk to video chats? You can schedule definitive times for your meetings and keep them short when you need to.
5. Be Available
Another way to network more when you’re not working outside is to make yourself available online. Sign into Google Hangouts so people in your Gmail network can ping you. Sign into Skype and turn your status to Active.
If your work has a remote chat feature, stay signed in. You’ll be there when people have a question. That might give you more opportunities to connect with people compared to those who are signed out.
You also might consider turning on notifications for social networks on your phone. That way, you can respond to comments and messages from your network more quickly.
Online on the Web Is the New Networking Mixer
Networking can still be highly effective when you’re doing it online. The key is to dedicate your time to meaningful relationships you genuinely care about. It’s also important to participate in relevant discussions so you can form new connections and stay at top of mind in your network.