By Ragoo Raghunathan
For the past 8-9 weeks, a majority of us have been sitting at home, either at a make-shift office, kitchen table, dining table or bedroom nook-converted into office. Normally we would be meeting people on the way to work, at work, breaks, on the way back home, or just while grabbing a drink at your local hang-out spot. All this has become almost impossible. However, it has become paramount to keep networking.
Given the uncertain times, one needs to keep constantly networking. No telling when you or someone you know or love will need to look for a job, project or business partner. So, how do you keep networking in times of social distancing.
Social networking is key. Tools like LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook are becoming more relevant than ever. Use any extra time to update your profiles, relevant to the audience you are catering to. It might make sense to have 2 separate profiles – one for business and one for personal stuff. Never mix them up. Be current and update as often as possible. Engage your preferred audience by posting relevant information and tagging people you would like attention from.
Video Conferencing is the other approach. With various providers like Zoom, Webex, Anymeeting offering limited free service offerings, it might be helpful to set up an account. This can be used for keeping in touch professionally with your network. You can schedule calls, forward invites or even have instant video conference calls with a small number of people with the free account. Some of your contacts may have paid, employer provided accounts that can accommodate more people for a group call. For personal networking, FaceTime and WhatsApp video tools come in very handy. I’ve used WhatsApp video a lot more in the recent few weeks than I had ever in the whole of last year.
When you are networking, keep a few things in mind.
Be mindful of their time. Scheduling a call is always better, however you may not be able to do it all the time. When you call, ask them if they have a few minutes. Tailor your conversation based on the response. Don’t add to their frustration with outrageous asks and impractical requests. I’ve seen that calling on the 15 or 45 after the hour usually gives you a better pick-up response. People usually set up calls on the hour or mid hour. These calls usually end a few minutes after the hour or past mid-hour. Even if they have another call, there is some time before they jump on it, and if they recognize your number they may be willing to pick up that call and give you 10 mins of their time.
Be prepared to give! See if you can be of any service. You could just ‘like’ or ‘share’ a post to your network, retweet a message important to them without them asking you. It will be appreciated. Offer to give them your time, share your skills, make a connection they could use, give a referral, sign into a webinar they are offering or a live session they are hosting – anything that they may appreciate.
Reach out to a past connection, friend, co-worker, boss, teacher, mentor. Let them know you were thinking of them. Recall specific moments or memories you had with them, rebuild those connections. Reach out to your local neighbors and local businesses that you have been interacting with, via their customer service portal and appreciate their service. Let them know you can’t wait to visit them.
Either way, this too shall pass. However, we cannot expect to go back a 100% like it was before. There is going to be a ‘new’ normal. Start thinking what that new normal may look like for you. Good luck and keep networking. Keep giving. Remember that the happiest people area not those getting more, but those giving more.