Rethink Your Networking Strategy for COVID Career Growth
Whether you are a mid-career professional, a new professional, recently laid off, considering a career reinvention, or simply want a new job, it’s time to face the reality that we’ve never seen a job market like that resulting from COVID-19 before. As such, tactics that have worked for professionals in the past are proving to be increasingly ineffective.
It’s time to go beyond traditional networking and grow your career with a strategy that includes these three actions:
#1 Form Your Career Advisory Team
Many of us have been sold the value of being “self-made” or of achieving success through our own determination and grit. Yet when we take a closer look at modern leaders and innovators, as well as those throughout history, the idea of succeeding as a lone wolf proves to be all but mythology.
Progress and growth never occurs in isolation. It’s also never born from an email blasted to your contact list announcing “I’m on the hunt! So who do you know?” Rather, it’s born from dedicated support from a group of trusted advocates who all have a close understanding of you, your story, and your goals: A personal career advisory team.
Your personal career Advisory team is a circle of people who are in your industry or on a career path relevant to yours. These professionals can be established in their careers or just slightly ahead of you, it does not matter, as long as they have agreed to mentor you as you move toward your goals.
Your goal in building this team is to have multiple views, experiences, and applications of expertise to lean on when you’re facing important questions and challenges.
While you will typically rely on your advisory team for career matters, be sure to include figures who can speak to dimensions of your personal experience that might impact your career. You’ll also want to choose advisors who are connected to or can point you in the direction of other experts who can help you professionally. To enable your inner circle and their contacts to do just that, you’ll want to ensure that you’re networking with a purpose.
#2 Network With a Purpose
For now, the serendipity that occurs when attending networking events, shaking new hands, and having casual sidebar conversations just isn’t available to us. Stuck behind screens and connecting through scheduled, distanced conversations, we’ve been forced to network more efficiently and effectively than we once did. You’ve probably always been conscious of not wasting someone else’s time, but when you’re networking in this climate, you’ll want to be twice as intentional in making the most of your time speaking with others.
Before going into any networking conversation, be sure that you can articulate the following:
- What are my target roles?
- Which industries and verticals am I most interested in moving forward?
- What’s my shortlist of employers? Which companies exemplify where I would like to work next?
- (If you’re considering self-employment) What areas of entrepreneurship or small business do I need support with? Which information would help me decide if it’s for me?
- With all that in mind, what gaps, challenges, or potential “unknowns” do I feel this contact might be able to address?
If at all possible, share the answers to these questions with your contact prior to any meeting you’ve scheduled; it will help them to prepare for your conversation. The clarity of your request prior to the meeting, as well as your questions during your chat, will ultimately increase your success while networking and job searching.
#3 Use Technology The Smart Way
If your answer is based around making connections with people and hoping for the best, you should consider tapping into a more digital network to advance your career. Connecting on social media or job-oriented sites with people from every stage of your career increases your ability to find a truly amazing connection that may lead to your dream job.
Social media can help you build relationships and maintain existing connections within your network. Being an active reader and participant on job-seeking platforms such as LinkedIn can be the difference between landing a job and narrowly missing out later on in your career path.
Make sure that you are confident in your goals while you network, and organize your contacts smartly when the time comes to reach out. A well-maintained connection is much more likely to be fruitful than a half-hearted attempt to reconnect with someone you haven’t spoken to in ages. Organizing your contacts can be as simple as setting a goal to add more connections on LinkedIn to get your name out there, as well as uploading your resume to a site like this to increase traffic to your page and get noticed.
Prior to the pandemic, a virtual networking date might have come across as impersonal, or even lazy; likewise, an unsolicited email from a stranger or someone on the periphery of one’s network might have felt intrusive. As we’ve seen with so many other aspects of work and life, the rules and norms around these aspects of networking have drastically changed during COVID-19.
Last, don’t make the mistake of networking only when you’re job hunting or looking to make a career move. The relationships you build can not only be beneficial to your success in your current role or position, but also will prove invaluable when you need change. Networking can and should be a lifelong activity that you execute with generosity.
Old-school transactional networking is a tactic of the past!
To see who’s hiring during the pandemic and what kind of skills companies are seeking out, see our blog post debunking myths about finding work right now.