“If you are not networking, there is probably a significant number of job possibilities you wouldn’t even hear of,” said Dorie Clark, author of “Entrepreneurial You.”
But with chats over coffee and conferences off the table for now, how can you continue to establish and build professional connections?
“The best jobs typically come from friends, colleagues and acquaintances,” said Clark. So continue to foster these relationships.
The people who already know your work background and trust you can be your best ally. They can provide insight on a company, pass along your resume or put you in touch with someone inside a company you are interested in.
“Be as direct as you can with what it is you are hoping they can help you with,” said Anna Bray, an executive and career coach at Jody Michael Associates. “There is that altruism. People want to help, but they need to know how to help you.”
For instance, if you are trying to break into a new industry, ask if they know anyone in the field they can connect you with or share your list of companies you are interested in working for to see if they have any suggestions to add.
Reinvigorate dormant relationships
We all have those relationships that we’ve let lapse. Whether they are former colleagues, college roommates or prior neighbors that could be helpful resources.
A cold call can be awkward and come off as self-serving — the key is to touch base without expectations, according to Clark.
“The pandemic provides a ready-made context to reach out to people,” she added. In your initial inquiry, simply let the person know you are thinking about them and ask how they’re doing.
If you get a response, that opens the door for you to provide an update on your situation. Clark suggested saying something like: I am doing alright, but was unfortunately laid off recently and if you happen to have any leads or suggestions about a position doing XYZ, I would be grateful.
“Something chill, not a hard sell,” she said.
Attend virtual networking events
Many of the in-person networking events have moved online, so check out the calendar of applicable professional organizations, your school’s alumni association and browse networking websites like LinkedIn or MeetUp for virtual gatherings.
The same rules apply to in-person events: have a quick pitch about yourself for new acquaintances, prepare conversation starters and get contact information and follow up after the event ends.
Play the role of host
Hosting a cocktail hour or dinner can be a great way to meet new people, but it also requires a lot of work. It’s much easier now when everyone is providing their own drinks and food.
Set up a virtual happy hour with a few established acquaintances and ask them to extend the invite to one or two new people.
You can’t escape all your hosting duties, however: Make sure introductions are made and have some planned questions to help get people talking.
“We call it ‘a table question,'” said Clark. “Everyone goes around, and answers one specific question and we try to make it interesting and revealing enough so by the end of it people feel like they’ve gotten a window into who the person is.” A good question would be: What have you learned about yourself since this pandemic started?
Clark said she recently participated in an online cocktail party where one of the guests shared that his startup was likely going to shutter and that another participant was looking for a chief technology officer. The two of them connected afterward.
Increase your visibility
Start creating content in your areas of expertise to gain more exposure, suggested Bray.
That can mean blogging, posting informational videos and being active on LinkedIn and other social media outlets. The more you showcase your skills and experience, the more you can attract attention from others in your field.
“It can be a good opportunity to really fine tune and update your personal brand,” she said.