Networking In A Pandemic

The Pandemic has wreaked havoc upon many throughout the world. 

One huge indicator was how in under a month, just under 16 million Americans lost their jobs in March 2020.

In Europe, employment markets were not as affected with countries impacted in different ways and reporting lesser numbers individually. Yet before the coronavirus pandemic fades, many millions more will become unemployed.

For many, they have now to think of “putting themselves out there” for the first time and not rely on others if they are to recover their career.

In Switzerland, networking has suddenly become important for job seekers and others in business.

The new normal 

Old style networking has disappeared. The hospitality and the Meeting or Events industry has been crushed by the pandemic. The list of networking events as real non-sales pitch type promotional events on Meetup show you that in a simple easy to understand way.

LinkedIn connecting was seen by many as the solution, the reality, for many again, especially those feeling a little low having lost their job or shy to reach out. It did not work very well at all. The problem, the response rate was in weeks for many, or it simply did not happen.

Why? The person receiving the request was concerned for their own job, were being bombarded with connection requests from people they did not know or were simply not logging onto the site for weeks at a time.

Yet you can still connect with others in a pure, authentic way and the Zürich Networking Group is one tool you can use but you need to be a little bit more invested than before. You need to make a conscious effort to:

Change your greeting:

Reaching out to someone with a simple greeting like “How are things? normally is fine, yet today there are all sorts of factors to consider. The small % of Swiss who have actually contracted COVID-19 and the small size of the population (think of London as a comparison) meant in fact many feel okay but not 100%. Nor will they admit it either. 

The strain of work, problems with colleagues, constant online video calls or meetings complicated by home life situations have affected others and left many feeling drained emotionally.

Some of the group coaches tell their clients that any requests to network should display honesty, sincerity, and authenticity. Indeed, a note to someone in their network should not even mention anything about jobs.

Instead, a simple acknowledgement of how difficult things are is appreciated. It may appear impersonal to style a message this way which is why many recommend you go further and take a step backwards. You need to message touch a lot of people and then they will acknowledge the touch and thought. 

Will it yield success? For some it may, our belief is there is another way, one which is “VF 2 VF.”

What is VF 2 VF?

Old networking over coffee or during breaks at a conference has gone, but the chance of meeting people in person has to be forgotten for the time being.

Instead of settling for a phone call, you can fly solo and arrange 1-2-1 video calls. Zoom, Teams, Webex, Skype and more give you so much flexibility. The video face to video face (vf2vf) make it easier to establish a connection and to be authentic.

Take time to prepare, check it works and if you are the Zoom host, go on early so at least you are ready for when they enter the waiting room etc.

However, that is not the only solution, the Zürich Networking Group provides a group and small member format to network. The network nights are about relationship building, providing a platform to then follow-up one to one.

To get the most from video face to face, your networking tactics need to also change.

Remember we said take a step back, it also applies to a video networking call or at an event, you need to think more about “how can I help?” what can I give before we talk about what I need to receive.

Nobody should start a network conversation with “I need a job” or “do you have any business.”

Those new or back in the networking game after a long period, simply do not understand the new dynamic.

Successful networking is about building relationships and they aren’t one-way streets.

You can start with making a list of the possible things you can do for people in your network even before you get on any call. This serves as a useful reminder of how you can help even with a simple request.

Your knowledge of a little-noticed but important research paper has value to the right person. Small gestures or follow-up, if done sincerely and genuinely can be meaningful to the other person and help your networking.

We are in a pandemic where things are not normal. Relationship building needs patience.

The colleague sat next to you now will not have a video call and show their face, the old contact you knew, seems to need chasing more and more to get a response.

A simple message which is read on LinkedIn can take over 5 weeks if the person does not know you very well or not at all.

How many times have you been told “sorry I didn’t back to you sooner,” be honest, you would not be human if you had not also done that with others as well.

This is why the Zürich Networking Group network nights are structured as they are for, not everyone can make every event, they are deliberately small to be personal and yet relaxed enough to put everyone at ease.

It is accepted by all that the pandemic has affected many differently, group networking lowers the bar of expectation naturally. Yet at the same time it accelerates any follow-up and connection and sometimes yields some pleasant surprises and offer to help or of support.

Then when the VF 2 VF slows or stops, real face to face networking can take over and we can go back to our “old ways” of doing things again.

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