Four Associates Networking

8 Networking Tips for the New World of Business

4 min read • Jan 06, 2021 • Barry Eitel

With no clear end in sight for the global COVID-19 pandemic, the art of networking has changed dramatically. The new reality is bewildering for many—professional network platform Blind found that more than half of American workers polled think their career progression has been negatively impacted since the pandemic started.

However, business is still being done even though many people are working from home. With some strategy, you can still expand and use a network for growing your sales, career, or client base.

1. List Your Networking Goals

Before you go about building a network, understand what you want from it. Are you looking for customers? A new career? Clients? A board of directors? A mentor? A group of industry insiders to provide advice? Even if you don’t need something at the moment, having an active, engaged network is a blessing because you will need something in the future. Say you are looking to increase sales or interested in a career change—it is much easier to seek solutions within an existing network than to build one from scratch and then engage it.

2. Understand Your Current Network

Even if you don’t think you’ve been networking at all, you have a network. Your customers, clients, employees, partners, family, and friends are all in a network with you at the center. Understanding who is already in your network is useful whether or not there is a pandemic. Cultivate and engage this network. You want to move beyond the transactional—trying to sell to your family and friends all the time will wear down your relationships. Stay open, friendly, and active with your network, even if everyone isn’t helpful with your current business goals.

3. Think About How Your Network Could Expand

Because every person in your network has their own network, your network can grow massively as you engage with who you already know. Social media, for all its ills, has made this aspect of networking much easier, especially during COVID-19. Once you understand your current network, you will have some clues about people you already know who have contacts you are interested in. On the other hand, think about how you can connect people you know who might be able to help each other. Try to be of use when you can. If you are always asking for help, sales, or other people’s Rolodexes, you will exhaust the people in your network very quickly.

4. Look for Contacts in Unexpected Places

Your network isn’t just people you know through your job or business—it is everyone in your life, including your family, childhood friends, in-laws, and soccer team. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people who aren’t familiar with your business side. Maybe you’ve met people through an online cooking class or a Zoom birthday party who could be helpful to your goals. It is totally acceptable to approach them, but try to stay humble and friendly.

5. Recognize That Geography Doesn’t Matter So Much

Due to the pandemic, geography has lost much of its meaning for the business world. Conferences are online and people are meeting via Zoom, even if they live in the same neighborhood. Networking has moved from happy hours and conference center lobbies to emails and webinars. Embrace the idea that your network is less limited by geography than ever before, and take that energy into forging new connections with people from around the globe.

6. Optimize Videoconferencing From Home

Conferences are moving online for the foreseeable future, and it is important to understand the pros and cons of this new reality. It is beneficial for you because you can attend any conference in the world from your bedroom, but it is also harder to network because there are no expo halls or group gatherings. You shouldn’t be shy about being vocal in the chat and you have to put the effort into following up with people who could be useful for your network.

7. Network From Home, Business Casual

You need to take videoconferencing and Zoom meetings as seriously as you would in person. Consider your camera angles, picture quality, and what viewers can see in the background. When there are chances for you to introduce yourself or ask questions of a speaker, take advantage of these and show off your personality. During breaks, connect with people you meet virtually on LinkedIn.

8. Go Beyond the ‘Thank You’ Email

If someone you contacted provides advice or suggests something to read, follow up with how the advice worked out or what you learned from the reading. This response can be far more impactful than a mere “thank you” email. Ideally, you want to open ongoing channels of conversation with your network that you can reengage for years to come. 

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Barry Eitel

Barry Eitel has written about business and technology for eight years, including working as a staff writer for Intuit's Small Business Center and as the Business Editor for the Piedmont Post, a weekly newspaper covering the city of Piedmont, California.