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2020 has become synonymous with a collective death rattle, psyche damage and sense of impending doom. Over the last eight months millions of individuals have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus (COVID19) pandemic and the end seems to be nowhere in sight. Some who have lost their jobs say they are not being rehired for their old jobs but are being replaced by new applicants. While just two to three percent are infected with the virus, according to a Pew Research Center survey, close to thirty percent know someone who has contracted COVID19.
People have become isolated during COVID19. According to the Center for Disease Control (cdc.gov), 40 percent of Americans say they are suffering from a mental health or substance abuse issue.
All of these fresh realities are important to keep in mind when you consider you the fact that you may need to network to recover your career. Research shows the majority of jobs are found through networking or referrals.
Before the pandemic, event planners were putting together more than 5,200 events per day, averaging ten people per event (https://www.Kornferry.com/insights/articles/job-networking-search-coronavirus). Clearly the normal vehicles of lunches, coffees and networking events have gone by the wayside. But do not lose heart, many experts say there are still many systematic approaches to keeping your professional contacts, present and future, aware of your existence and value. There are novel approaches, in the era of coronavirus, to this end.
First, remember the cardinal rule of networking: It’s all about relationship building.
Most of us are annoyed by an unsolicited sales call from a stranger. Unfortunately, many people approach networking in that very vein of philosophy. Let’s face it, people are interested in the ways you can help them. So, let’s turn networking on its head. Instead of selling yourself, build your network by providing value to your contacts.
Being strategic about your approach to networking is critical. Even if we’ve learned very little about relationships, by the time we reach adulthood, most of us can agree a relationship is a two-way street. So, nurture and grow your relationships over time so you are not simply reaching out during a time of need.
Ask yourself why would this person want to connect with me? Check-in with the individuals in your network to assess what you could do for them. Perhaps it is introducing them to one of your contacts or highlighting a little-known research article.
Action Item: Make a list of potential value items for your network contacts.
The Second Rule of Networking: Build and manage your strong and weak ties
Strong ties are people that you know well, keep in touch on a regular basis and that you share relevant information with. Think of close friends, family members and colleagues that you regularly interact with. A weak tie is more like an acquaintance. Think about LinkedIn or Facebook contacts. Do you regularly interact with all of your connections? Chances are you may occasionally send a message or like a post but they are not in your inner circle of proverbially close proximity.
Strong ties are easily identifiable as bringing value and adding richness and information to your life but don’t discount your weak ties. Your weak ties may bring information into your life that you yourself would not commonly seek. They may also have a connection to an individual that would bring you valuable information or know of a position opening up in an organization that might be a good fit for you. The existence of strong and weak ties come together to create a well-rounded sphere of influence, information and connection that will enrich your life as a whole. Building and maintaining both will be of great benefit to you (https://www.socialmediatoday.com/content/strong-and-weak-ties-why-your-weak-ties-matter).
We are living in unprecedented times.
Reaching out to contacts to let you know you are thinking of them during this difficult period can go a long way in fostering a healthy relationship. It may be as simple as sending a message of checking on how things are going for that person. In reality, sending a message to someone in a network may not even involve mentioning anything about a job. At any time, but particularly now, experts agree displaying sincerity and authenticity are essential. And a little bit of kindness goes a long way.
These types of greetings can be sent to anyone in your network and you may be reaching out to a record number these days. “It’s more likely to be 100 than a dozen,” says Alan Guairno, vice chairman of Korn Ferry’s Board and CEO Services practice. “You touch a lot of people and it’s good for them to know you are thinking about them.” Use technology to your advantage. A video chat is much more personable than a phone call and is especially effective when meeting someone for the first time.
Action Item: Send a message of support to all the members in your network. Let them know that you’re available for a video chat if they are feeling isolated.
Before you make a new connection, be clear on your objective.
For instance, do you want to learn more about a company, an industry or a technology? Find the leaders in that field, whether it be an organization or an individual. For companies or positions you are unfamiliar with, Linkedin can be a good place to begin. In fact, even when there are many other hits provided in a google search of a professional’s name, Linkedin is often first one up. Whether you have decided on a company, an industry or a job title there are a range of search options. There are thousands of professional groups on Linkedin. Join in commenting on a posted article or post one of your own.
This could lead to a conversation in which you invite someone to virtual coffee or ask if they have fifteen to twenty minutes to chat and conduct an Informational Interview. An Informational Interview is a tool to learn more about a company, industry or job. Keep abreast of company changes. Particularly, how they are doing during the pandemic. Your interest can lead to a segue about that company and any future opportunities.
Action Item: Request the free career guide here. This guide will jump start your informational Interview process with a pivotal check list.
Take a genuine interest in the individual you are contacting.
For example, compliment a writer about something you have read of theirs that you like or a content creator on some aspect of their work that inspired you. It could even be as simple as liking their website or the mission of an organization. Then ask open-ended questions. These are ones that gets them talking your ear off. For instance, ask them what lead them to start, or work for, that particular organization. Or, even more timely, ask how the pandemic has affected their business. Explain why you have chosen them to contact and disclose how you can help make them more effective or efficient. Be sure to practice active listening, carefully process the information they are providing and use that intelligence to move the relationship forward.
Action Item: Make a list of ten persons of interest you plan to contact.
In-person meetings and events are currently non-starters.
Meanwhile, an emerging phenomenon is taking their place. The virtual conference. While it may be hard to get a list of attendees, you can easily get the names of speakers and panel representatives. Consider emailing these individuals after an event to ask a question or to provide feedback. Ask if they would be open to speak you with briefly then prepare questions that further your agenda. Also think about bringing value to a conference you participate in by offering to be on a panel. This step could further open up opportunities.
Action Item: Make a list of five virtual conferences you plan to sit in on.
Don’t Forget about Yourself
Now it a good time to practice self-care. Networking is hard. Be patient. Experts agree the person who reaches out should be grateful to hear back at all these days. Our jobs and lives have been turned on their heads. Millions are looking for work and those that have jobs are likely under a lot of stress just to keep them. Given this new reality, gentle reminders spread out carefully are likely to be more successful than a high pressure, follow-up campaign. Remind yourself that networking is a relationship and, like any relationship that bears fruit, good things come to the thoughtful giver.
Action Item: Think of an activity that recharges your batteries and put that activity on your calendar.