After more than two years of unprecedented weirdness, business professionals are now trying to figure out how to reengage with others and prioritize networking. When everything feels up in the air, there is no right answer or blueprint for moving forward.
During the pandemic, screen time was at an all-time high and when it came to networking, more Zoom meetings didn’t feel ideal. So, for all intents and purposes, you feel like you ghosted your network.
Now it’s time to reestablish those relationships. But what does that look like? What are the next steps?
When rebuilding your professional network and reconnecting, first …
Ask how the person has been in a sincere and genuine way, beyond the automated greeting.
But and this is a BIG but – be prepared for the answer and respond appropriately. This means truly listening and hearing what is shared. For some people, the pandemic was HARD. Perhaps things are still hard. From kids at home while working to layoffs and illness, this time did not treat everyone equally. And people want to be asked how they are doing. Not for sympathy but to be heard. To feel compassion and support … a great place from which to restart those connections.
Move beyond commiserating.
When catching up or even meeting for the first time, commiserating about the strangeness of the past two years can feel like an easy conversation starter. But don’t stop there. Commiserating is not positive nor productive. It’s simply easy. Instead, shift the conversation to a future orientation, consider what you most need from your network at this time and think about what you can offer someone else.
One of the biggest opportunities from the pandemic is rethinking where you are and what you want next. How did this time reshape your thinking? Part of this process is also talking through these ideas. Making connections is important no matter what your career goals and your network can serve as a sounding board, resource and so much more as you consider where you are and where you want to go next. Consider what you are going to do differently and how you want to move forward. Sharing these intentions with your network not only invites accountability, but increases your likelihood of seeing ideas and thoughts materialize.
Now is a great time to reassess how you want to reengage your network beyond Zoom. Are you going to return to meeting over coffee in coffee shops? Are you going to conduct walking networking meetings? Is it time to see if and how professional groups are reconvening? What feels comfortable and safe at this point for yourself and others?
The “how” will need to be flexible as we move into different seasons and stages of the pandemic.
Networking is an essential career management skill. The need to engage with others is innate, especially after so much time without it. Reconnecting is about more than just catching up. It’s an opportunity to support one another, to share where you are and what you’ve been through, and maybe even ask for something you need.
It’s an opportunity to tell your story but also hear from someone else. It can be hard to know how to reengage in this process. It can even feel exhausting after so much time with limited socialization. Ultimately, networking is about support. When in doubt, ask – how can I be supportive of whatever is next for you?
If you are looking for more insight on how to prepare for in-person networking, Forbes shared top tips. My biggest takeaway? Prepare for the meeting. More than ever, people value their time so be sure you know who you are meeting with and what your goals are for the conversation.
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