Networking During a Pandemic

COVID-19 has transformed many aspects of doing business, including how we network.

Many of employees are missing impromptu happy hour get-togethers, lunches with mentors, and other networking engagements to develop professional relationships. As many people transition to virtual coffee and happy hour networking sessions, it is important to understand just how severely people have been impacted by the pandemic. Do they know someone who had COVID-19? Are they struggling with kids at home and virtual learning as kids return to school?

COVID-19 has impacted mental health resiliency, which ultimately changes today’s networking strategies. According to August 2020 survey results released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30 percent of respondents reported symptoms of anxiety and/or depression, versus 11 percent during the same time period in 2019.

Overcoming the challenges of networking during a pandemic requires increased empathy and proactive initiative in building relationships. Below are some tips on tailoring your networking style during a global pandemic.

Authentic Outreach

Under normal circumstances, reaching out to someone with a simple greeting like “How are things? Hope you are well!” would be fine. But these days, hardly anyone is “fine.” One in three Americans is dealing with symptoms of stress or anxiety, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Center for Health Statistics.

Reaching out with a message of authenticity is very much needed during times of extreme stress and anxiety. For example, try reaching out to connect with a peer with a message of, “How are you holding up?” and sharing something about yourself related to COVID-19 impacts. I like to use humor with my peers by mentioning that COVID-19 has even made my dog grouchy – she really lets the delivery person know she is displeased with the knock at the door. And then the neighbor’s dog joins in to complain.

Build Relationships

You might have a networking game-plan that includes building relationships with people within the same industry or specialty. Connecting with fellow communicators is a key component to my strategy and interacting with them through video conferencing is a great way to build relationships.

Make the extra effort to interact with new LinkedIn connections by inviting them to have a brief video coffee networking session. Have a few questions prepared to help guide the discussion. Ask about their current position and if they have any networking recommendations to further connect you to people within their network.

Be Empathetic

While 2020 jokes are funny, when you take a step back from ‘Mommy Juice’ memes, this humor depicts how dark things are for the world right now. If you reach out to someone to network and do not hear anything back from them, be empathetic about what their current work conditions. They could be juggling a lot of tasks, including caring for children at home while trying to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Instead of nudging someone you are trying to connect with, be patient and give them some extra time to respond.

Additional COVID-19 Networking Resources