The official Path Forward networking motto is, “who you know is what you know.” Networking is a key part not just to landing a new job, but figuring out what job you’d like to do in the first place. Talking with friends, old colleagues, classmates, and acquaintances can broaden your perspective on what the job market looks like, what skills are in demand, and the different roles that exist in your career field.
Just because you can’t meet with people physically doesn’t mean your networking has to take a pause. Here are some ways you can reach out and network while staying in:
Grab a virtual coffee. The local coffee shop may be takeout-only, but you don’t need to cancel all your networking plans. Move them to a virtual space instead. If anything, a more flexible meeting schedule (like the chance to reschedule a coffee meeting into a happy hour) can present opportunities to meet with more people and grow a wider network.
Take it online. If you’re feeling video chat fatigue, take your networking to the website that was created for it: LinkedIn. First, make sure your profile is completed and up-to-date with any courses you’ve taken or skills you’ve picked up during your career break. Message your existing connections, connect with new ones, and stay active by posting and commenting on your feed and any groups you’re a part of. Networking on LinkedIn is a pressure-free way to get back into a professional mindset and connect with your network without setting up one-on-one meetings.
Join an online group. Outside of LinkedIn, connect with affinity groups, alumni associations, and professional groups in your career field, like Women Who Code or Women in Product. These groups often have events, message boards, or Facebook groups that you can take part in. Also look into joining more general career-oriented sites like Fairygodboss, which has active forums on career advice and more specific sub-groups – like ours! – on a variety of interests.
Attend a virtual event. Events are certainly not the only way to network, but they can still be a valuable way to meet people outside of your existing circle of connections. Now that shaking hands with lots of strangers is a no-go, many networking events and conferences have moved online. Look through the event postings in your online professional groups, and browse through sites like MeetUp for upcoming networking opportunities in your local area or career field. Connect with fellow attendees, and after webinars and conferences, with presenters you found especially inspiring.
Finally, don’t be afraid to get personal. CNBC reports that the current crisis has made coworkers open up to each other more, which has brought people closer together. The same should extend to your networking. It’s a tough time for everyone, and it’s only natural to want to connect on a personal level. Whether it’s with a good friend or an acquaintance you haven’t talked to in a while, reach out to ask how someone is holding up, commiserate about homeschooling, or just swap stories about this new normal. It’s a great way to keep the lines of communication open, and people will appreciate that you’re thinking of them.