Until March of 2020, this was the definition of networking: Business networking is the process of establishing a mutually beneficial relationship with other business people and potential clients or customers. It still is – but how we go about it has changed drastically and will continue to evolve as we work our way through and past the current pandemic.
In my book; The Insider Guide to Your Dream Career: Mastering Your Job Search in the Digital Age, I discuss networking how-to’s and when-to’s. It’s pretty simple; you start by getting out there, meeting people, and exchanging information about yourselves. The next step is being of service in some way to the people you have met, because you know someone they need to meet or you know of someone who provides a service they need, or you know the Hiring Manager of the company they want to go to work for. Please note that I said –“be of service to them”, because that is the important part. If your networking goal is to create a list of those who can do stuff for you – you have the wrong attitude and the folks in your network will soon realize that you aren’t helping them, but using them – and drop you.
The hard part of networking prior to Covid-19 was “getting out there”. Now it’s nearly impossible. There’s one place where good networking is still possible – it’s just closer to home.
Off the top of your head, can you name someone who works with you who knows how to draft an advertisement for a magazine? Who has contacts at the nearest college? Who has experience in recruiting and hiring? If you don’t know this much about your co-workers – you should.
Networking among co-workers should be considered as important as networking in the community. Have you thought about starting the next Zoom meeting with an exercise where everyone tells one odd talent they have? That’s networking – because now you have a source you didn’t have before!
You never know when you’re going to need help doing your job. Most of the time, your company will not be able to afford to hire outside experts. Who you know can really be as important as what you know. “It’s great to be able to say: ”I don’t know the answer to this, but I know who will”.
To start your in-house networking, create a list of contacts throughout your company and throughout your industry. Strive to reach beyond your immediate circle. Reach out to those you don’t already know with a short message that contains your “elevator speech”, why you are interested in them and how you can help them. If they respond positively, be sure to stay in touch with them – even if it’s just short emails that contain an article they might be interested in or a comment about a recent achievement of theirs. You don’t know them well enough to pass on the current joke – so leave that to your closest friends!
Your goal is not to have many, many contacts, it’s to have contacts that you can be useful to and who can be of use to you.