Four Ways to Get Back into the Networking Game

While the pandemic isn’t over yet, the world is opening up again in many places thanks to a growing number of vaccinated people and falling COVID-19 positivity rates. Tired of connecting by teleconference, phone or email, many are resuming the face-to-face coffee, lunch or happy hour dates we used to take for granted pre-pandemic.  

While some are embracing these in-person gatherings, others are feeling a bit out of practice. Regardless of which camp you fall into, here are four ways to help boost your confidence and get back in the networking game.

1. Update your elevator speech, resume and LinkedIn profile

Did your job change during the pandemic? As many employees shifted from working in the office to telecommuting, they had to adapt and find new ways to collaborate. This meant learning to use new platforms and connect with colleagues in different ways.

Many employees also found themselves taking on new responsibilities as they helped their organizations respond to COVID-19 and adapt to the changing business climate. Others took the opportunity to use their newly found free time at home to focus on professional development or earn a degree or certificate.

“If you acquired new skills or credentials during the pandemic, be sure to add these to your LinkedIn profile and resume so potential employers have a complete picture of what you have to offer them,” advises UMGC Assistant Vice President of Career Development Dr. Francine Blume. “This is also the time to update your elevator speech so you can clearly and succinctly communicate what you do and the kinds of opportunities you seek as we emerge from the pandemic.”

2. Start with who you know

If the idea of cultivating new contacts feels daunting, there’s another choice.

“Reach out to those you already know, especially if you have not connected with them since the pandemic started,” suggests Dr. Blume. “They’re likely to feel just as ready to get together and catch up as you do to discuss how the year went and explore any new opportunities on the horizon.”

During the pandemic, you may have reached out to some tried-and-true contacts for recommendations or advice on how to approach a challenge within your organization. Now is an ideal time to schedule an in-person meeting so you can thank them face-to-face for their support.

“The bonus is that starting with a familiar face will boost your confidence and help set you up for success as you cast a wider networking net,” notes Dr. Blume.

3. Zoom out to expand your network

During the pandemic, you may have found yourself working with people you’ve never met in person. Think about who you interacted with over the last year, and make a list of those you’d like to add to your network.

As people become more comfortable with going out, there’s an opportunity to make your remote acquaintance a real-life connection.

“Meeting face-to-face can really help you solidify these new relationships,” says Dr. Blume.

In addition, your goals and priorities may have changed during the pandemic, and you may find yourself seeking a new position that aligns with where you are now in your life. If you fall into this camp, take the time to consider the kind of work you’d like to transition to. Then ask your connections to introduce you to people who are in your desired industry or field. Reach out and see if they are willing to meet with you to help you zero in on your next career move.

“You never know where these connections may take you,” says Dr. Blume.

4. Take a hybrid approach

Chances are you found ways to network remotely during the pandemic. Zoom meetings, webinars and virtual conferences helped fill the void when our movement was restricted, and there’s no reason we should cast aside these successful networking methods now that we are getting out more.

“Shifting everything to a virtual platform opened up new opportunities for all of us,” explains Dr. Blume “You may have been able to attend a dream conference for the first time or enroll in a coveted training session because it was accessible remotely last year. Virtual options are likely to continue post-pandemic, so use these opportunities to supplement your in-person networking efforts.”

Although you may feel rusty as you reestablish your footing, the pandemic has underscored how important it is to have a solid network, both for your organization and for you as an individual.

“During the pandemic, many relied on their connections to help them weather the storm,” says Dr. Blume. “Cultivating a strong and mutually beneficial network can help us land on our feet no matter what challenges come our way.”

Visit CareerQuest today to explore UMGC’s career tools and resources available to assist in your career progression. If you have any questions about these career events, please contact your UMGC Career Services office at 240-684-2720 or careerservices@umgc.edu