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During this time of uncertainty, social distancing has forced all of us to adapt to a new way of living – and working. From mental health professionals offering tele-therapy to students showing up in virtual classrooms, our way of connecting with others has drastically changed.

Have you considered how it will also affect your professional networking? You can still manage and advance your career within this new terrain.  

Instead of: Waiting for others to reach out, or putting networking on hold entirely…

Try: Setting virtual networking goals as part of your career management plan.

  1. Decide what platform to use. Now is the time to familiarize yourself with the many ways to connect online. Zoom, Skype, Google Hangout, Facebook Messenger, and WebEx are just some of the popular platforms. You can use them to schedule a virtual coffee, conduct an informational interview, hold an online happy hour, or reconnect with someone in your network. Most of these platforms are free to join, with paid upgrades for additional features. Many companies are offering discounted pricing right now, so pick one that is right for you.
  1. List who you want to network with. Maybe it’s an old boss or colleague. Maybe it’s someone inside an organization you are interested in potentially working for one day. It could be a new connection on LinkedIn whose profile is attention-grabbing, and you’d like to ask for tips on making yours just as fabulous. Reach out to anyone who would have been on your networking list before the crisis hit and think: What is your networking goal now? While we are all in this crisis together, it is important to be mindful of others’ time and unique personal situations.
  1. Prepare for your virtual networking session. If you ask for the meeting, make sure you are ready. Choose a well-lit, uncluttered area of your home or work space (and ideally, one that is quiet!). If you’re not used to the technology, practice getting online with someone you know, and seek feedback on how you come across. This helps you adjust for future sessions. Over time, you will become more natural and at ease with not just networking – but networking virtually.

Networking will ALWAYS benefit your career, and that hasn’t changed with the COVID-19 pandemic. If anything, it’s even more important that we stay connected. Expanding your network will position you for new opportunities, help you get inside information or a referral to an organization, and further grow your career.

And as always with networking: It’s a two-way street. Seek to give back, and you may be asked to help someone else manage their career virtually as well!

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