Handshakes are forbidden; events have been postponed or moved to virtual spaces, serendipitous conversations in airport terminals and Target aisles are not happening. So, is networking cancelled?
My observation over the past month is that networking is not only happening, but it is happening in more compassionate and authentic ways. Physical distancing is not social distancing.
In the past 30 days, I have participated in more discussions with more employer partners and peers in higher education/career consulting than I previously would have planned or anticipated in one month. My student meetings are consistently running over time. My phone calls are lasting as long as they did in the early 90s, when I was a teen with a touch tone phone. We are looking for more ways to connect. I would argue that networking is not only possible, but also truly essential in this time of physical distancing.
Not sure where to get started? Here are some of my recommendations:
- Update your LinkedIn and grow your network. Chances are, you already know a lot of people – family, friends, neighbors, teachers, and supervisors. Find them online and add them to your network.
- Follow as many companies and organizations as you can – airlines, accounting firms, healthcare companies, hospitality groups, management consulting firms, marketing agencies, museums, manufacturing, non-profit agencies, professional organizations, retail, restaurants, your college/alma mater…you get the point. The more organizations, groups, and people you follow, the more informed you will be.
- Be sure to follow LinkedIn Guide to Networking. You will receive daily advice for leveraging your network. They recently shared this email template for connecting with others during the crisis:
Hi [First name],
I’m checking in to see how you’ve been doing the past few weeks with the recent developments. I found this [post, course, etc.] helpful. Let me know if there is anything I can do to support you.
- Consider your current network – family, friends, colleagues and neighbors. Reach out. Check in. Ask how you can help.
- Volunteer for Covid-19 Projects. Volunteer with LinkedIn partner nonprofits. Look for ways to volunteer in your community.
- Employers want to hear from you. Connect with alumni from your college. You can search alumni in companies and organizations that interest you.
- Does your college have an alumni-networking platform? Penn State uses LionLink. If you are a PSU student or Alumni, I encourage you to register your account and join the conversations.
- Reach out to individuals in your network from companies or industries of interest to you, and ask to connect for a virtual coffee break or happy hour.
- Register for any and all free webinars hosted by employers, organizations and career platforms.
As tempting as it may be, now is not the time to panic, or bury your head under the covers. Whether you are gainfully employed, new to the job hunt, or you have been laid off, you have choices. The actions you take today, the adaptability you can harness, and your willingness to help will make all the difference.