How Can Managers Network During A Pandemic?

Meeting new people is very hard when there is a pandemic going on
Meeting new people is very hard when there is a pandemic going on
Image Credit: Jurgen Appelo

Let’s face it, most of us don’t really relish the idea of having to go out and do networking. However, in the past we’ve been willing to do it because we knew that it was an important way to help our career move along. Then came the Covid-19 pandemic. All of sudden we can’t get together and make small talk with people that we hardly know. The importance of doing this has not diminished, just how we have to go about doing it has changed. How is a manager supposed to network in the era of a pandemic?

Networking Becomes Hard To Do

As the Covi-19 pandemic has forced many people to work from home, it’s also disrupted a fixture of a manager’s career life: networking, a quasi-business, quasi-social activity that typically happened everywhere from conference halls to bars to corporate mixers and golf courses. With social distancing in effect for the foreseeable future, networking online – which some managers were already doing pre-Covid as a secondary pursuit – has become the primary way for us to use our manager skills to connect.

With economic uncertainty fueling job concerns, many managers say they see networking as essential for their careers. More than a third of 2,022 U.S. adults responding to a poll said it is more important than usual in the pandemic, with work-from-home and no-travel rules in place at many companies. Some managers may be relieved to not have to attend business-card-swapping events – a 2014 study found that participants reported actually feeling dirty after networking.

But a move to virtual networking brings other concerns. What managers need to realize is that online networking is going to enhance the advantages of those who are already well-connected. For those managers who don’t have that many existing connections, it’s going to be harder to develop the new ties they need to advance their career. This is not helpful for new managers who are looking for jobs, or those on the periphery of their professional networks.

How To Network In The Era Of A Pandemic

Managers need to understand that online networking comes with challenges and awkwardness. However, the good news is that even without manager training it can be done. The first thing that a manager needs to realize is that we need to be proactive. New managers need to realize that simply putting their information out won’t magically get them selected for their next position. In order for someone to find you, you have to create connections. Experienced managers, meanwhile, should make a conscious effort to stay connected with the people they used to see in person. It’s important to take five minutes out of the day and send an email to a contact just to stay in touch. Take the time to look at your in-box and ask yourself, “Am I sending just as much email as I’m receiving, to serve the purpose of these collisions that used to take place in the office?” View this as a form of online team building.

We all have to understand that we now live in an online world. This means that managers need to get comfortable using online tools to network. You can do this by joining or increasing your use of networking sites and apps to keep in touch with existing contacts and meet new ones. Managers have to realize that virtual meetings allow people to have choice in identifying those that they think would be helpful in a way that in-person networking events can’t. However, we all have to keep in mind the dangers that come along with interacting with people online. Take the precautions you normally would online. Do your research before you connect with someone you don’t know online, and check privacy policies on sites and apps. Don’t overlook networking opportunities on Instagram and Twitter, where people in creative industries may showcase their work. Your tone should still be professional if you are trying to network with people you do not know personally.

Finally, one of the most important parts of networking in the real world remains critical in the new world of online networking: the follow up. You need to be proactive not just about sending out emails but also about following up. Always make planning easier for them by setting up the time to talk or video-conference through calendar invites with easy instructions. We are all busy working from home, so making any appointment easier to schedule for the other party is the key. When setting up a follow up, you should initially only ask for a few minutes so the meeting doesn’t feel like a burden to the person you are networking with. The rule is that fifteen to 30 minutes is enough to make an impact.

What All Of This Means For You

Managers know that networking is an important part of managing our careers. Although it might not be something that we look forward to doing, we all understand that it is something that we need to be doing. However, with the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic, all of a sudden getting together with other people and networking with them has become very hard to do. Since this is still something that is important to do, we now have to move online and do it.

Connecting with people online has now become the primary way that we can connect with people. Networking is an important part of any manager’s career. This going to be easier for managers who already have networks to connect with people than for managers who don’t yet have networks. In order to successfully network online, managers have to be proactive. In order to do the networking that is required managers are going to have to take the time to master the online tools that are available to them. The need to follow up after making contact with someone has become even more important now that we are meeting people online.

Our careers have always been in our hands. Now that we are having to deal with a pandemic, this has not changed. However, it has become more difficult to deal with. Managers need to make adjustments to how they go about managing their career and move their networking activities to online. Knowing how to go about networking online is a new skill that we all have to develop. If we can get good at doing this, then there is no need for our careers to slow down even as the world gets turned upside down.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: How much time each day do you think that you should spend working on networking?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

One of the biggest challenges that we face as managers is finding ways to use our manager skills to keep the members of our team satisfied with their job and not looking to jump ship and go work for someone else. One of the simplest ways that we can make this happen is by identifying training and development programs that offer advantages for team members and managers alike. They provide means for team members who are looking to keep their skills sharp, and help managers address skills gaps, while improving employee engagement and desire to stay with the company.