2020 hasn’t exactly been a golden year for networking. But with rising unemployment rates and an economy on the precipice, it might just be one of the most important skills to lock down at the moment. A 2019 report from CNBC was quoted as saying 70 percent of all jobs are not published publicly on job sites, with the hidden job market proving impossible to crack into without an extensive network giving you a hand. As such, we asked life coach Fiona Moss how she would advise clients looking to expand their network and reap the career benefits, all while we’re stuck in lockdown limbo.
Zoom-to-Zoom Is Always Best
It’s quite easy if you’re on the phone to put it down, or on speaker and only half be involved in the conversation. The conversation isn’t fully there. We’re fortunate to have the technology whereby you can still engage in a conversation and see someone’s body language though. It might not be perfect, but that really helps. So try to have conversations or network on platforms where you can literally see the other person.
Shift Onto Zoom Quickly
Having a conversation rather than just exchanging emails really takes it to the next level. You capture that person straight away. Even if you do just chat for 10 minutes, you can get so much more out of that than just an email exchange, and it’s a lot quicker than passing three or four emails between you. Ultimately, at the end of the day, everyone is just a human being. No matter what their seniority is, no matter what their role, we are all just human beings so the more we can engage with one another on that level, the more respect you’ll attract.
Make It Easy For Everyone
You should always think about how to make it more efficient for yourself and the other person. No one needs extra hassle. If you’re having regular Zoom meetings then I would really recommend a meeting schedule tool like Calendly. Rather than having a constant back-and-forth over email to sort out a time and send Zoom links you can just send someone your calendar and give them the opportunity and choice. It just makes the whole thing more efficient.
Allow A Grace Period For Following Up
Think before you follow up. A non-reply could be for a host of reasons. Your email could have gone into a junk box, for example. Sometimes people do open it, but they’re also busy that week. Maybe they intended to reply but didn’t get around to it. A grace period of a week is perfectly fine then to say, “I have sent you this. I just want to check whether you received it?”
Don’t Unnecessarily Network
Everybody is living their life on the computer now, whether that’s socialising personally, or professionally talking to teammates. So people don’t necessarily want to be online all the time. I would say a big no-no then is unnecessarily networking with someone just for the sake of it.
Know the purpose of your networking and then understand why you’re networking with somebody. Think about why you’re networking in the first place. What’s the purpose of it? Is it for you to get another job? Is it for you to advance in your career? What are you actually trying to seek out and then be specific about who you’re speaking to and the benefit that you are hoping to get from those conversations.
Set Out Parameters
As well as setting out what you’re looking for from the conversation, also put in place parameters with the other person. A short, “I won’t take up too much your time. I want to get clear about X, Y, and Z.” can help convince the other person to Zoom with you. Equally, be explicit about your appreciation before and after the call, especially with a follow-up email. Whether they do or don’t reply, it’s a courtesy we should all be making, and depending on the situation maybe there is something you can offer in return.
When it comes to finding channels to network in online, you should again understand what you want to achieve, as well as the type of person you want to network with. There’ll be different channels that are more appropriate for different things. If it is strictly professional, then a platform like LinkedIn is your best bet. If it is something a bit more casual, maybe something like Instagram or joining a Facebook group. You could even join some courses and then reach out to the communities within them. I joined a virtual book club through lockdown and I met a lot of people through that.
Lay The Foundations
Use this time to get some foundations down. If you’re really clear on the direction you’re going, you can start getting clear on how you want that to build and therefore who you need to talk to, who you need to network with and how to grow your community. Update your socials and sites, reach out to people you’ve never spoken to before. All of that work is going to be really fundamental in three, four months’ time when we’re moving out of this to help you then grow that little bit further.