How to become better at networking despite the coronavirus keeping you at home

The ability to network in order to develop, or make new contacts, is another area of business that has been dramatically impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. 

Most jobs in some form or another rely on being able to forge professional relationships both with colleagues in the office and people in the wider industry. 

However, the outbreak of COVID-19 has led to the cancellation of conferences and other networking events, as well as forcing a significant proportion of the global population to work from home, in a bid to slow the spread of the virus. 

Some organizers have taken conferences online to make up for cancellations, including Microsoft which has made its annual “Build” event for developers digital. 

As for more informal methods of networking, a search on Meetup, a platform which allows people to link with other people based on shared interests, found there are 1,092 “Work at Home” groups. 

Dr. Rosina Racioppi, CEO of professional development program provider Women Unlimited, believed social distancing amid the coronavirus could be a catalyst for increased online networking and said it could stave off feelings of loneliness or isolation. 

Dr. Jo Webber, CEO of social networking app Pod, similarly said that utilizing spare time while in self-isolation to network online was a way of “laying the foundation for future growth for when the pandemic comes to an end.” 

Reaching out to existing and new contacts on LinkedIn is one method suggested by Racioppi. 

“As you network, don’t be afraid to ask for a contact’s point of view on issues and circumstances that you are experiencing,” she said. “It’s also a great time to post your own thoughts and create more visibility for yourself.” 

Likewise, Webber argued that expanding professional networks as a way of creating greater visibility is particularly important for small and medium-sized businesses which have a local focus.

“While most of the world is more tethered to the computer and cellphone than ever, this is a great time to do it and it will help some businesses save themselves,” she said.  

Diversify your network 

While reaching out to people virtually can feel daunting and means that we can’t guarantee “having chemistry” with new contacts, Racioppi emphasized that it’s important to go out of your comfort zone to connect with people “under all circumstances.” 

She said self-isolation is also a good time to build a personal “board of directors,” as during a crisis people may be more willing to help one another. 

To this end, Racioppi recommended that people network with potential mentors that have a different background to their own. For example, if someone works in operations, she suggested trying to reach out to a prospective mentor with a background in sales or marketing. 

“This will help you understand how individuals in these different functions view their business and are dealing with today’s challenges,” she explained.

Webber agreed, citing LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, who has been vocal about the problem of the “network gap” on social media platforms, where people have been encouraged to take their existing networks online. 

“Now is the perfect time to reflect on your network and start to build up and increase your network so you and your business are well positioned for when the fog lifts,” she added.


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