5 Tips for Networking in the Age of COVID-19
The COVID-19 has been the biggest black swan in business we’ve ever seen. Our global humanity was not prepared for how much this could and would change our collective lives. Well— now, here we are. How can we remain effective at work and connected while at home?
Reach Out and ZOOM Someone
The rub is that the very essence of working in public relations is about connecting with people, paying attention to what the media and public are saying, and also being “out there” to network and stay relevant. Some professionals are already saying that Remote Work Has Accelerated 10 years in 10 Days and that the office, as we know it, is done. However, that does not mean that you should not forge new relationships and stay connected during this time. On the contrary: people are starved at home now more than ever for human contact.
Remember: the physical world is on lockdown, but you are not.
5 Networking Tips On How To Reach out and Zoom Someone
- Say Yes to (Almost) Everything! During the first week of quarantine, I was asked by a journalist/friend of mine, “Would you be open to hosting a last-minute Q&A with my journalist students about what it’s like to work in PR?” She asked me one hour before the class. Although I had no makeup on and was not fully prepared for the class, I realized how hungry I was for human interaction I was so I gave her an emphatic, “yes!” With very little time to prepare, I eventually found myself in a virtual classroom with 15+ eager students. This is when I realized that preparation be damned; everyone wanted the added human interaction too. Also, as imperfect as the class was, it was inspiring to see students who were looking to learn, and I, in turn, felt inspired by them. Note: interactions with students are also great opportunities for potential new hires down the road.
- Captive Audiences Did I mention enough that right now, almost everyone is your captive audience? As I neared two weeks of quarantine, I was scrolling through my LinkedIn feed and came across a message from the Head of Airbnb Experiences: “If anyone wants to chat this week, I’m opening up my network. Happy to mentor, chat Airbnb or simply say hi. Who wants to connect?” I immediately responded. Not only did I made a new connection with someone at a company I’ve admired for years, I learned how to incorporate our clients into the fold of their services. As we were chatting— me at my parent’s house with a toddler in the background, and her at her condo with her Corgi sleeping just off to the left of her screen— I wondered if this networking opportunity to connect would have presented itself before the pandemic. I’m not sure, but it was a gift indeed.
- Virtual Networking Does Not Have to Be Awkward. By now I am sure you have been invited to at least one zoom happy hour or lunch meet up (we have even scheduled virtual client tastings with media during this time.) Some are certainly better than others, but if you have not tried already converting your normal lunch or coffee meetups with clients and or friends into virtual opportunities— I urge you to try it. So far in two weeks, I’ve made virtual appointments with clients, creative + marketing partners, friends, gym classes, #ClubQuarantine DJ/dance parties and other PR professionals online. The verdict: I actually got more out of each interaction than I anticipated. Meeting in-person certainly has its own advantages, but it is helpful to know that the future of work and work culture will make these meetings the exceptions to the new norm.
- Pay It Forward, Virtually. If you are sitting in your house wondering who might “reach out and zoom you” first, you are getting this concept all wrong. You must, therefore, also extend networking opportunities to people not only in your network but also those outside of your immediate network (friends and family are also great to keep you sane and connected.) If you put forth opportunities (like our friend at Airbnb) you will receive opportunities back. We must all, pay it forward, virtually speaking right now.
Nobody knows for sure when this will end, but why would you wait until this is all over to make a new connection, and to reconnect with your current network?