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A Roadmap to Networking: Social Distancing Edition

In just a few months, more than 40 million Americans were forced out of work, while millions more entered an uncertain job market. Whether you’re unemployed, a recent graduate and wondering whether you should continue to send out resumes, or you’re lucky enough to still be employed, connecting with your network and keeping relationships fresh is always important. And that can be a daunting task during times of social distancing where the rules of when, how and if we can meet face-to-face are fluid.  

As communication professionals one of our first instincts is to “pound the pavement,” and talk to people. Events that provide opportunities to meet someone new—morning coffees, lunches, professional development events, happy hours—won’t be happening or will be severely restricted for the foreseeable future.  

If you’re unsure how to tap into your networks with these new parameters, here are a few tips and tricks I’ve been implementing. 

Update your social media profiles – Use some of this extra time to fine tune your LinkedIn profile, or join “groups” on the platform that help you connect with alumni or volunteer organizations to expand your virtual network. Also look at your bio on Twitter as I would venture to say it has been left untouched for the last few years. Update your brand and people will take notice – it could start just the conversation you need!  

Check in during tough times – You may be hesitant to check in on professional contacts during this uncertain time. It can feel like a bit of a grey area. Remember that people you interact with professionally are experiencing this pandemic in the same way you are, so don’t be afraid to reach out with a touch of humanity. A LinkedIn message, an email or even a handwritten note can go a long way in building trust and good faith with your contacts. They will remember you checked in even if you don’t have a specific ask, letting you pick up when you see them again like no time has passed.  

Explore resources from professional organizations and alumni networks – PRSA’s National Capital Chapter (of which I’m a member) is reaching out with free resources available to members and non-members alike, including virtual professional development events. These always start off with “round robin” introductions, followed by a short presentation by an industry expert and close with time for discussion. If you hear from someone whose work aligns with yours, reach out to them after the event via email or even via Zoom message. You might be surprised who is open to a conversation. Your alma mater might also be a little more active digitally than before! Keep an eye on your email for alumni networks sharing free resources for virtual networking or professional development. 

Make a goal for yourself and stick to it – I’ve written before about networking for young professionals, and this tip holds true for networking during our new normal. Practice makes perfect, so the more you push yourself out of your networking comfort zone, the more natural it will begin to feel. One virtual coffee a week? A virtual lunch once a month with someone new? No matter how big or small – write down your goals for networking over the next few weeks or month and check them off the list as you go. 

Before starting the process, networking during a global pandemic can seem almost impossible. View this time as an opportunity to connect with new people. You’ll be happy you kept the wheels turning during this uncertain time.  

Nicole Golvala is a senior account executive in Stratacomm’s Washington, D.C. office. For more resources for college graduates entering the workforce, read Nicole’s Roadmap to Networking: Four Tips for Young Professionals and Tips to Succeed in Your First Year in PR.