You must be wondering: “Can I or should I network during the COVID-19 pandemic?”
Yes, of course you can!
Right now is a great opportunity for students, new grads and professionals to network.
COVID-19 has impacted all industries and fields but it doesn’t have to impact your career prospects. If you’re a student or a recent graduate, now is a good time to reach out to alumni from your school for a virtual coffee chat.
If you’re an early career professional, this is a great time to touch base and catch up with your network of previous colleagues, former classmates, or send that connection request you’ve always been meaning to.
But before you fire off that email or message, keep in mind the following networking tips:
Look for connections, not jobs.
A network is an interconnected community of professionals that can offer each other information and support at any stage in their professional careers. A person can only vouch for you if they get to know you. Hence, approach connections with the goal to get to know them.
Send a message or email introducing yourself briefly and why you want to connect. Ask questions about their career path, how they got to their current position, and their future goals. Ask questions about what skills are required for a particular position that interests you or what it’s like to work at their company.
The more you get to know the individual, the more likely they will remember you.
Be patient, they will respond.
So, you’ve sent that LinkedIn message or email and haven’t heard back from your connection? Don’t stress, wait for a response and recognize that they are busy too.
Because of COVID-19 several thousands of people at all levels of their careers are currently facing unemployment or temporary lay-offs. They too are looking for ways to restart their income and have their own personal concerns. Be attentive to this when asking for a virtual coffee chat.
As for professionals that are still working: they are busy carrying the workload that would have otherwise been divided amongst a larger team. Be sensitive to their time by showing patience. You have done your part in sending them an email or a message. Follow up with them in two week’s time instead of a week.
Remember that professionals are humans too.
Ask your network about how COVID-19 has affected their work and what challenges they are facing. Don’t be hesitant to share details of how the pandemic has affected your education or your profession either.
These are very real conversations we need to have because this pandemic is affecting everyone at every level in their lives. These events make us human and it may give you a common ground to connect with the individual you’re networking with.
Be genuine and talk about your current situation.
Let your network know that you are open for opportunities. Explain your current situation, and talk about how you are spending your time during the pandemic. If you have taken up a new hobby or an online course, it shows that you are using your time efficiently — even if the hobby or course doesn’t directly relate to your career. These qualities are translated into essential soft skills that your network recognizes as skills you can bring into the workforce.
Talk about your career aspirations and work experience. If you’re still a student or a new graduate, share your career interests and what you have done during university to pursue them. Talk about how the pandemic has affected your job prospects or affected your education.
These are new experiences for everybody, and it’s okay to talk about them.
Finally, don’t hesitate to ask for introductions with other professionals whom you’re interested in speaking to. That’s how you grow your network. Follow up with your network and stay in touch with them even after the pandemic.