By Rebecca Goldberg
Contrary to popular belief social distancing has its perks when it comes to networking. Follow these 5 tips and tricks to maximize your time while you are at home.
Networking can be challenging even in the most ideal job market. And today, with the impact of COVID-19, it could be easy to say it’s just that much harder. However, there are ways to navigate this unique and unprecedented moment that might make the next few months more fruitful, productive, and fun than you originally anticipated.
- Virtual Stalking Allowed: Regardless if you are currently employed or not, take this time to sign up for as many webinars, free events, and virtual conferences as possible. Try to sneak in a few a week, even if you can only ‘stay for a short time.’ There are multiple benefits to doing this. First, you might learn something and second, you get access to a roster of people that might be able to help you in your life pursuits. I like to play what I call “LinkedIn stalker” when on a call, strategically finding as many participants during the call as I can on LinkedIn and quickly inviting them to connect (hint: another reason to add your last name to your Zoom profile, it makes it easier for people like me to find you!). This also works for the virtual classroom. When in a physical class you typically end up sitting next to the same person each week. In the world of a virtual classroom, everyone is in front of you, as are their names. Get to know your classmates through Teams, emails, LinkedIn and so forth. Find a time to connect with them outside of the classroom via virtual meet & greets. You would be surprised how many new friends (and connections!) you can make this way.
- LinkedIn Like It’s Going Out of Style: This leads me to my second LinkedIn related suggestion. Spend as much time on LinkedIn as you do on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Think of this as your new local hangout. Keep it up as a tab on your browser throughout the day and every time you hear about a company that sounds interesting, follow it. If you read an article you like, send an invite to the author with a note letting them know. Even highly successful people like to hear that you like their work! Also, the amount of content on LinkedIn is unprecedented right now as companies are using it to enhance their visibility.
- Don’t Stop Reaching Out: While everyone is juggling their lives right now they are more willing than ever to help. Reach out with increased empathy and understanding but definitely don’t stop reaching out. Be flexible with timing, knowing they might be juggling a career and family, knowing that these days are very different. Initiate each conversation from a place of compassion and consideration. So many people just want to be asked, “How are you doing?” It sounds basic but people are looking for connections more now than ever. And come prepared, just like you would a first interview, prepare like that person could be your potential next boss. The way you show up shows how much you respect them and their time. Also, ask them how you might help them. You might be surprised but sometimes others might need your skills and resources…you don’t know unless you ask.
- Give Thanks: Just because you can’t buy someone a coffee, find other ways to show appreciation and thanks. A $10 virtual gift card to their local coffee shop (for when things return to normal) or sending them suggestions for your favorite stay-at-home quarantine activities makes an impression. Last week, I connected with a woman who had recently been furloughed. She was helpful in giving me some information about a project I was working on. I followed up with a Sephora e-gift card. She was so appreciative. I guarantee she will remember that gesture and will be willing to help me again in the future.
- Leverage Resources Available: If there is ever a time to take advantage of NYU, it is now. The faculty, administration, fellow students and alumni want to help. They might not be able to provide exactly what you want but they will definitely try. Ask for time with a career advisor, email the Dean, join a new club, start a new club, ask for permission to take a class that might not be currently offered to you, go for it… you have nothing to lose and the potential to gain something new.
While it might take a bit longer to land your dream job or figure out your future, this isn’t a time that should feel wasted. If anything, this is a time for us to get creative and leverage everything we have learned about being resilient and overcoming obstacles. And the best part about all of the above… you don’t have to put on shoes to do any of it.