Networking Tips & Skills in a Post-Pandemic World
Many aspects of our working lives have experienced significant changes due to the pandemic. We’ve had to move much of our work online, and most, if not all, of the job application process has changed to remote. However, as we’ve begun to get accustomed to the remote way of life, coming out of COVID restrictions and emerging back into a “regular,” in-person way of life, we may be feeling dusty with skills like networking, in-person meetings, interviewing, and so on. For many of us, it may be hard to even remember the last time we had an in-person anything! Here are a few tips for coming back into in-person networking, self-marketing and branding skills, and more.
o Effective Elevator Pitches
What is an “elevator pitch,” anyway? Essentially, it’s a brief introductory speech, brief enough to be given in its entirety during the span of one elevator ride, that you give to potential partners, clients, sponsors, etc. to pitch your brand—about 30 seconds long. Elevator pitches are very important for effective self-marketing. In the pandemic, however, especially because almost everything has had to move into a virtual setting, many aspects of the job scene—interviews, meetings, and more—have gradually become more laid back. After all, we can just roll out of bed and into our chairs, and we’re set for the day, instead of having to spend a long time getting awake and ready for a long day at work—and we don’t have as much of a reason to develop a refined “elevator pitch” speech when we can simply market ourselves over text. As a result, we may be a little rusty on this front; resurfacing into the old in-person working world may cause us to scramble for a good elevator speech.
One of the most important things to remember is, don’t make the speech all about yourself. You run the risk of sounding egotistic and out of touch with reality. Ultimately, what’s most important is not boasting about your own traits without drawing upon any real evidence to back it up; it’s the benefits you can bring to your clients and partners, and exactly which target audience you are looking to bring these benefits to. Especially because the pandemic has impacted so much of the world in the past year, what are specific steps YOU are planning to take to solve problems in the context of your brand and business? In summary, it can be helpful to draw inspiration from what you’ve been saying on online platforms to self-market, and then expand and refine that content to shift the focus off of “me, me, me!”
o Have Clear Goals
Nobody can have confidence in you and your skills if you yourself don’t have a clear direction. Before you attempt to advance your career, especially as the world is in the process of returning to a normal state, you should focus on advancing your connections in the industry—but it is very important to come into your elevator pitch, networking, and everything else with a clear goal already in mind. For example, what exactly do you want out of certain conversations? To learn more about the industry, grow your network, find an actual job placement, develop a side hobby, or something else? This way, the people you’re talking to can get to know you and your goals better, and on your end, you can also have a more productive conversation. Depending on what you wish to achieve out of your conversations and networking opportunities, you can also supplement these conversations with certain contacts, such as through mutuals that you may know in the particular industry, or through LinkedIn. (For more tips and information on how to make the most of your LinkedIn page and contacts, read our past blog post about taking advantage of LinkedIn!)
o Ask Effective Questions
With the power of the internet, things like instant messaging and generally communicating through online platforms can seem like a solid replacement for real life conversations. However, in-person communication can be very different, which is something we may especially discover after being in social isolation for so long. Rehabilitating having normal in-person conversations can be a process, and rebuilding an understanding of in-person networking can be even more difficult. One of the most important things to keep in mind is your presence in the conversation. As aforementioned for elevator pitches, the conversation should not just be about you yourself. In conversation with potential network contacts, as well as industry leaders and professionals, make sure to ask effective questions. Having a clear goal in mind coming into the conversation, these questions should be relevant to what you are pursuing—industry info, hobbies, contacts, and more. Incorporate other people into the conversation so that you don’t seem narrow minded or out of touch with reality. Above all, make sure you are clearly asking for what you want, but also keep in mind that you should keep the context mutually beneficial. What role do you serve in a potential partnership? What do you bring to the table that is unique to you? It can also be very helpful to note down their contact information, so that if you think of any questions afterwards, you can email or call them to continue the conversation.
o Create Larger Partnerships
Sometimes, you have to think beyond the individuals that surround you, and branch out to bigger networking. For example, Creating larger partnerships—with established teams and companies, for example—can be more beneficial than, or at least a supplement to, networking with individual people. Established companies and institutions allow you to get more opportunities to meet relevant figures and more platforms to expand your network, even on a national and global scale. It also doesn’t just have to be a one-way exchange that only benefits you, because after all, such partnerships should be mutually beneficial. You can also recommend certain faculty and figures to appear in their venues and do things like give talks and presentations, mentor junior members, and more.
Be patient! Don’t rush through your networking process. Preserving these relationships in an elegant manner is important to the success of your current and future career. Returning to in-person life in general can be scary and difficult, not to mention having to face the in-person working scene again. One important thing to remember while emerging back into in-person networking is the network you already have! That’s right, don’t forget about your current network—you know more people than you may think. Keep in mind the 6 Degrees of Separation phenomenon; even though the world may seem big, we are actually on average no more than 6 “degrees”—or social connections—apart from anyone and everyone, celebrities and other important figures included. The world is actually quite a small place, so use your connections, keep a clear mind, and above all, have confidence in yourself!