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Networking in an Age of Social Distancing

As if networking wasn’t tough enough, how in the world can you network when most states have a stay-at-home order in effect and when we do go out for essentials, we have to be six feet apart?

By Mary Beth Barrett-Newman

Mary Beth Barrett-Newman is President of 2nd Career Consulting, She spent almost 30 years in the corporate world and brings her experience, expertise and enthusiasm as she coaches clients on their journey to a new position. Mary Beth is a frequent contributor to the iRelaunch blog and podcast and is a moderator of the iRelaunch Return to Work Forum on Facebook.

The saying that “necessity is the mother of invention” seems truer today than ever. I’ve seen neighbors who walk together every day, continue to walk, but one is on the sidewalk and the other in the street. (Given the negligible traffic, it’s pretty safe!) I’ve met friends for a “virtual cocktail party." The best part was that they were from Illinois, South Carolina and England! That never would have happened before. Now is the perfect time to STOP thinking about what you can’t do (go to a coffee shop, meet for lunch) and START thinking creatively.

Start by setting weekly networking goals. But, make them realistic. Even if you have younger kids home from school and have now taken on a new role as teacher, your job is not to keep them entertained every waking hour. Being forced to stay home and interact only with siblings, allows our kids to grow as well. Let older kids help the younger ones and let the younger ones try to figure things out themselves before jumping in to help. During “reading time” or other designated homework times, you should be working on your relaunch homework assignments!

  • Text, email or call that friend or former colleague to see how they are doing. Even if your house is full, we are all longing for human interaction. People are flattered when they know others are thinking of them. I saw this referred to as a “goodwill” call. You can “plant seeds” about your relaunch or ask them for some advice but remember to make it reciprocal. We will all remember those friends and former colleagues that checked in on us during this time.
  • Replace in-person activities like meeting for coffee or having an in-person informational interview by using technology like FaceTime, Zoom or Google Hangouts to make them happen. Until recently, many of us haven’t been frequent users of these technologies. So, we are all learning together. You can even ask someone “I’m looking to become more familiar with Zoom. Would you be willing to have a Zoom get-together with me?” Becoming more knowledgeable about these tools will come in handy during job interviews as the number of employers using them during the interview process is likely to increase.
  • Use this time to make those necessary updates to your resume or LinkedIn profile. Instead of cleaning out a closet, how about cleaning up your LinkedIn profile and adding to your LinkedIn contacts. Send personal messages when asking someone to connect, especially if they don’t know you well. I personally do not connect with strangers, BUT if they include a personal message and let me know that a client or family member suggested that they connect with me, I’m happy to accept their invitation.
  • Start using LinkedIn…I mean really using it. Sharing articles, following thought leaders and commenting with insights.

Be safe and healthy and continue to network and focus on your relaunch during this COVID-19 period of our lives.

No excuses ... you’re just sitting at home anyway!

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