How to Connect During COVID: Why Networking Matters
No matter the industry, most of us tend to find jobs via the strength of our connections.
It’s all about relationships. Genuine, true relationships.
And building those relationships happens through good, solid, roll-up-your-sleeves networking. In fact, we need to connect during COVID now more than ever before. After all, many of us have become static and immobile.
But just because we’re not going to lunch or traveling to conferences doesn’t give us an “out.”
Learning to network effectively enhances our careers in a measurable way. And when we connect with others, our odds improve. So, naturally, the best thing we can do in a job transition is play the odds.
Tips to Connect During COVID (and Beyond)
As a recent Wall Street Journal article notes, “The inability to be with friends and loved ones who aren’t under the same roof during a stressful and scary time has pushed individuals to be creative with technology that is more often used for business meetings.”
Businesses are adapting to the new reality of remote work brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. So, too, do we all need to adopt the social behaviors that enable us to stay in touch and forge new relationships with coworkers, partners, customers and potential clients. Following are a few tips to make that happen.
Be Compassionate and Honest
Now may be the ideal time to reach out to your network of industry associates and let them know you’re thinking of them. It shows that you’re human and that you care. And it’s more than okay to acknowledge how difficult things have been. Be realistic and honest. You can forgo formalities like “I hope this finds you happy and healthy.” And instead ask what’s on everyone’s mind right now: “How are you holding up?”
Make it About Them
Getting to know someone better—or reconnecting after a long period of time—is a skill that we can hone. The first step is to realize that it’s about making a connection. But put the focus on the person you’re contacting—not on yourself. In fact, you should hardly talk about yourself at all. Instead, ask them what’s going on in their world and seek their advice.
What’ more, see if there’s anything you can do to help them. Put yourself in their shoes and ask, what can I offer you, and how can I help? In doing so, you’ll make the connection all the more meaningful and valuable—for them and for yourself.
Instead of asking someone to grab a coffee or a drink, propose meeting them on a video call or conference. In fact, networking online via video can feel much more authentic than a mere phone call.
Set an Expectation
Be purposeful when arranging a virtual meeting. Let them know why you’re asking them to meet. Tell them what you are proposing to do in the allotted time. What your expectations are and what benefits you both might gain. For instance, if you’re looking to make contacts at a certain company, do your research ahead of time. LinkedIn is a great resource to help you see whom your contact might know at the company.
Make it Fast and Convenient
Make sure to let your contact know how much of their time you intend to take up in a video call or meeting. Tell them, “We won’t need more than 20 or 30 minutes.” And be sure to be respectful of their time. Schedule the meeting at a time that’s convenient for them. And keep an eye on the clock so that you’re not overstaying your welcome.
If you’ve agreed to a date and time, set up the logistics yourself and send them a calendar invitation. And don’t forget to follow up a day before to make sure they’re still available. When it comes to video meetings, there’s a variety of free meeting options. Check out Google Meet, Skype and Zoom. (If you have access to multiple platforms, ask your contact if they have a preference).
Attend Virtual Conferences
As we all know, our major aviation industry conferences are going virtual for the time being. In fact, NBAA’s VBACE is coming up on December 2 and 3. Make a plan to connect with the exhibitors (there’s a list) and check out the program schedule. You can connect with speakers and panelists, and send them questions. (And while you’re at it, don’t forget to stop by API’s virtual booth and attend the December 2nd session at 2:30. It’s with Kriya Shortt and Sheryl Barden on the topic of “Keeping Women in Aviation.”)
With the move to hosting meetings online, travel days and location are no longer a barrier. You can easily dial in from your desk—whether that’s at the hangar or your home office or even while you’re on a trip. There’s no excuse to miss a meeting because there’s no commute!
Further, NBAA Regional groups are getting creative. They’re hosting speakers’ series, happy hours and aviation safety days. Definitely put these events on your calendar and connect. You can even offer to be a panelist or help volunteer with generating other speakers. After all, this is a great way to network with thought leaders in the industry.
The Importance of Networking
One of the most critical things about networking is that—although the details may have changed—the reasons for it remain the same. And its importance to your career still cannot be overstated. It’s true, the “terms” of how you end up networking are altered, but the motivation remains the same.
A few years ago, I wrote a column describing the building blocks for networking. And, as I review it, it’s still accurate. While we’re at it, my follow-up blog to the one above is also still relevant to our discussion. In it, I laid out five tips will help you take action and make your business networking plan.
Commit to It!
Have you heard of any recent networking success stories?
One of the key ways to connect during COVID is to make a plan. I recently read about a professional in a different industry who definitely has her networking act together. Finding the time in the midst of the pandemic, she’s committed to three 20-minute networking meetings per week.
In those meetings, when talking about her future career plans, she asks “Where might you see me plugging in?” And it’s turning out to be a very powerful question. All of a sudden, she’s had 25 responses from people who would be happy to recommend her. Ideally, she isn’t talking much about herself during the meetings. But, rather, she demonstrates who she is by how she “presents” herself.
So remember, be sure to connect during COVID, and please take a few cues how best to do it.