Re-Entry Can Be Tough. Tips for Networking in a Post-Pandemic Environment
We’re all moving back to traditional work places in some shape or form… and that means we are also going back to the networking events we used to engage in without even thinking about it. Except this time you are thinking about it, and maybe that is stressing you out. But don’t panic. You got this. Here are some tips for getting back in the proverbial networking saddle.
Accept that it’s got to happen.
Reality is that strong relationships are a business driver. And meeting new people keeps the business machine humming. Sadly, the pandemic changed lots of things. Networking events were one of the first things to go in the isolating days of 2020. If you remember, networking was a common tool for meeting people and expanding business circles. Many people successfully networked through lunches, dinners and events. But maybe it has never been easy for you and so it feels even more stressful to get back at it. So, how do we go back to networking events while easing the discomfort? First off, a mind shift needs to take place. Try not to think of networking as a chore, but more like an opportunity to meet new people who tell new stories about familiar topics. Try reframing networking into a chance to make new friends who have the same profession in common with you.
Don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself.
Yes, making new connections will help you expand your contacts who may further develop your career or practice in positive ways. Think about it. You meet lots of people over the course of a lifetime, but that doesn’t mean you are going to have an instant connection with all of them. Talk to people to see if you have commonalities, a chemistry of sorts. You can choose to build your network slowly, with the people you find interesting. And the people who are willing to get to know you and hear your story.
It takes two to tango, as the saying goes.
Meeting people isn’t just for your benefit. In fact, it works much better if you are looking for ways to help others first. Think about ways to support the people you meet. Can you make an introduction for them, can you provide some knowledge that gives answers to their questions, or can you be a sounding board for ideas? Give these things to those around you. Trust me… your good faith efforts will always come back to you in ways you could not have anticipated.
Be ready and engaged.
Networking is always more productive if you know what you want to get out of your effort. Before attending an event, find out who is signed up to attend. Figure out who you want to meet and what you will say to those individuals. Refresh your quick pitch so that it’s easy to answer questions about who you are and what you do. Read the latest news and understand what it means to the people you will see. It can be very helpful to prepare a few questions as conversation starters. And remember, it’s always great to ask people about themselves. All of this preparation will help people feel at ease and give you confidence as you work the room.
It’s quite simple. Don’t go to a networking event pretending to be something or someone you are not. Authenticity is critical to productive relationship development. Be who you are, listen to others intently and always do what you say you will do. The rest will follow.
And always follow-up.
Keep track of the people you meet and jot down some notes about your conversations. After the event, reflect on who you met and identify the person (or people) who you felt most at ease with and see the most opportunity to connect with. Reach out to those folks on LinkedIn and send them a meeting request with a reminder as to where you met. Invite individuals to go out for coffee or meet via zoom for 15 minutes to further your conversations. Then, the next time you go to a networking event, invite them to join you. Before you know it, you will develop a new friendship and professional relationship.