Listen to our podcast episode with this article's authors Vivian Tse, manager, communications, and Stéphanie Roy, manager, employer relations at CPABC. Part of our Coffee Chats with CPABC podcast series.
We have been living in this new COVID-19 normal for over a year now. With events and workplaces remaining virtual and remote, are you finding it increasingly difficult to maintain connections with your existing network as well as build new meaningful connections? If the answer is yes, you are not alone.
Here are four tips on how you can maintain and build your network during these challenging times.
Say hi… just because
As we continue to stay within our immediate circle of family and friends, it is important to check-in on those outside our circle. For individuals in your professional network, keep an eye on their LinkedIn feed and comment on posts that resonate with you.
If you come across an article that reminds you of a LinkedIn contact, share the article with them either by email or direct message. It shows that you are thinking of that person and helps to maintain the connection. Don’t expect a response and make sure you don’t inundate your contact with messages. Many people are busy, so if you don’t hear from them, don’t pursue them endlessly.
For individuals within your personal circle, use social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok to stay updated on what they’re up to. Drop a direct message or make a comment on their posts… just because. During these challenging times, we like to know that we are on someone’s mind, not because there’s a favour waiting to be asked, but just because.
Share your network
When you can’t meet in-person, it makes it more difficult to meet new people and stay connected. By sharing your network, it doesn’t mean you need to share your contact list. Rather it’s being open to the idea of facilitating and asking for introductions.
Prior to the pandemic, introductions were easily made at in-person events. In this new normal, we can still make introductions virtually. This can help you and others expand existing networks and will be key moving forward.
However, this needs to be done strategically. For example, if you are hoping to reach out to someone through a colleague, you are asking your colleague for a favour and you should be prepared to return this favour. When you ask your colleague for the introduction, you should also be clear on what this ask is before you reach out to them. Additionally, you should be respectful of your colleague’s relationship with the contact.
A good tip here is to do this with someone you trust and for whom you can both mutually benefit from in terms of networking.
Customize your outreach
Stop sending cold messages that offer no insight as to what you want. Whether you are looking to connect with a new contact or to sell a product or service, it is important to be clear on who you are hoping to reach and customizing your outreach appropriately. Look into who they are, where they work, and make a case for why you want to connect. What are you hoping to achieve with this connection? What can you offer? What is the call to action?
If you are sending an email for solicitation purposes, make sure to ensure you are following Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation.
Leveraging your LinkedIn can really help you in these efforts. Before reaching out to form a connection, consider following that person on LinkedIn first and learning more about them. Like or comment on their posts to start engagement and build a rapport until you are ready to establish a meaningful connection. At that point, a personalized message can go a long way.
Attend virtual events
With Zoom fatigue being a real thing, many are losing motivation to sign up for yet another virtual event. And even when you’re registered, staying engaged at these events can feel taxing these days.
Don’t feel you have to attend every event. Virtual events have been ramping up during COVID-19, and there are now more virtual events than ever before. So, there’s an understanding that you can’t attend everything. Save your time and energy to attend events that genuinely interest you.
Remember that even if you’re not feeling up for being seen and heard, you can still attend Zoom webinars. Don’t be afraid to have your camera off and microphone muted.
While hosts generally prefer attendees to engage with video and microphone on, it is also fine for you to choose to be a fly on the wall. Even if you choose to not actively participate in a virtual event, you can still use the event to make a new connection – whether it’s a speaker or another attendee by sending them a direct message through the chat function or emailing them afterwards.
For those who have a Clubhouse account, it’s a good alternative to attending virtual events with video. Many local influencers are now on Clubhouse and regularly host audio discussions. You can hop into a room, listen to a conversation and participate if you wish. Since Clubhouse is a strictly audio platform, no one will ever see you. But you can see who else is in the room from reading the list of names and perhaps build a new connection from there.
Stéphanie Roy is Manager, Employer Relations and Vivian Tse is Manager, Communications at CPABC.