Networking while adjusting to the work-from-home environment is imperative to professionals who wish to stay dynamic in the workforce. One way to kickstart your at-home networking is by socializing with your group of trusted friends, family members, and coworkers. It’s worth noting that socialization and networking aren’t really the same thing, though, and this article can help you learn the difference (TL;DR: socialization is for connecting with others for pleasure whereas networking is connecting with others to achieve your career aspirations or seek professional help in a field of expertise). While this distinction is important, it doesn’t mean that networking and socialization are mutually exclusive; leveraging your strengths with trusted friends in real-time can also lead to skills that will help you build and strengthen professional relationships.
The social world and the professional world have always seemed more like elements of a Venn diagram instead of separate, independent spheres. Take a look at your favorite social networking sites/apps and consider these questions: have you been asked by a former classmate to “like” their LulaRoe page? Have you ever been asked an awkward work question in front of 25 people during a zoom happy hour? There’s lots of overlap between our social and professional worlds, and it’s important to know how to handle oneself when socializing or networking in any situation.
Who do I reach out to and why?
Friends and family:
Your tightest circle will want to support you the most and help propel you towards success.
- Alumni association:
- There are strong chances that you will find someone who can connect with you professionally (hopefully within your ideal field) since you already have something in common with each person you meet in these kinds of groups.
- Relevant professional associations:
- Have a unique trait in your field of work? Connect with people on that unique trait to network with people beyond your industry.
- Former employers:
- As a previous employer, they know your strengths and weaknesses. If your time with them ended on good terms, they will speak on your behalf and speak highly of you as an employee. This is helpful when you want potential employers to see the ways in which you’d be a worthwhile addition to their team.
- Successful indirect competitor:
- They can help you improve. As an indirect competitor, you can push each other to improve based on each other’s weaknesses. You will try to best each other in a healthy way.
- Former or current coworkers:
- They know how you exist in a work environment and may want to get to know you better. It can be hard to socialize in a work environment because you have tasks to do and not much time to chat. Your lunch breaks may not coincide either, so take a risk and reach out. Ask a former or current coworker to go for coffee, a healthy walk, or something else that creates a neutral and friendly situation. A friendship with a coworker can be a good thing and may make tough times at work more bearable and fun.
As you reach out to these people, sit back and think, “what do I want to get out of this interaction?” And go from there. It might take time to realize what you’re really looking for, but if you really spend some time on the question you’ll figure out exactly what you want and how to proceed.
If you decide to attend a zoom networking event, it can be more awkward than in-person networking events because you can’t move between groups of people and conversations. You may be put into a breakout room with a small group of people, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll connect with anyone. The good part of virtual events is, however, that you can cheat: you can take down important points as people converse and refer to them when the time comes. You’ll be less likely to fumble for talking points if you paying attention and taking simple notes, and hopefully you’ll benefit from this tip and the others listed below:
- Make a list of people you already know and with whom you’d like to form a stronger connection. You can also make a list of people you’d like to connect with in the future.
- Use visual cues or a unique body feature to remember people’s names. Remembering names is extremely important while networking, and mnemonic devices can help you stay on top of all the new names and information you learn!
When you want to interact with someone at a networking event or even on your own time, take these tips with you. Ensure you make a list of questions and ideas beforehand so that you’ll make the most out of everyone’s time. If you have a specific coworker you’d like to get to know better, reach out for a midweek coffee. Networking can be awkward, especially during these virtual times, but with any luck this blog will help you to take the first steps towards effective networking in these times. Since working from home and quarantining can get pretty boring, it’s probably a good idea to get out of your comfort zone and socialize!
See you at the next blog, you won’t want to miss it.