Why Networking with Purpose Matters Now More than Ever
How are you exercising your social muscles while staying at home?
When quarantine started over six months ago, I reconnected with many of my friends around the world through video calls, emails or text messages. As the new reality settled in, everyone seemed to be more focused on getting adapted to the new routine.
The reality is that we are becoming socially awkward, as stated in a very good article in New York Times. The way to maintain social abilities in face of social distancing, is to make a daily effort to connect to people.
If our social abilities atrophy, what happens to the power of networking?
This week I had the opportunity to organize a Networking webinar for the University of Michigan alumni associations in the Bay Area. The presenter, Nehal Mehta, a successful executive and expert on the topic of professional networking, had great advice on how to take the 'work' out of networking and leverage this time to strengthen connections and build new relationships.
Here are the 3 takeaways that I've started implementing in my life:
1. The 10-10-10 rule
Spend 10 minutes a day networking, add 10 new contacts to your network per day if you are looking for a new job, and 10 new contacts per week if you are not.
In the old normal when we used to meet co-workers, clients and go to industry events, meeting new people and adding them to our network was easy. Now we need to do an extra effort to virtually meet new people.
Nehal's advice is to reconnect with people that you already know, but that you haven't been in touch with for a long time (your high school soccer teammates, college roommates, colleagues in an exchange program or work abroad assignment). Reconnecting to people who are part of your network, but with whom you haven't talked in a while also counts (a co-worker who moved to another division or someone you've met at a conference, for example).
As we started working from home, I lost touch with co-workers that are not part of my team. Recently, I've prioritized scheduling virtual coffees with those colleagues. I always get positive response when proactively reaching out, especially from senior executives, who we may think are too busy for another call.
2. Give first
When connecting or reconnecting to people, don't ask for anything. Checking on how people are doing during these uncertain times is a great starter. Nehal also recommends sharing articles that may be of interest and reaching out to people when they update their LinkedIn.
She recommends that if you are reaching out to someone to ask for something, you should plan to give back to this person in the future.
People really appreciate when I message them on LinkedIn just to ask how they are doing. I want to do it more often as suggested with the 10-10-10 rule.
My way to give back is writing LinkedIn recommendations to people who have helped in my career without a request and reaching out to people who provided me with career advice to share how that has impacted my career. People really appreciate that.
I plan to compliment people when they share career updates (promotion, job change) as per Nehal's suggestion, as a way to engage more with my contacts.
3. Make your LinkedIn profile work for you
Keeping your LinkedIn in good shape has became even more important as our professional engagements are fully virtual.
Some of the main tips provided by Nehal is to have a professional picture, display a headline that reflects not only your current position, but also your expertise and passion, and include more details about your experiences than in your one page resume (including media) and including skills and volunteering experiences. Your LinkedIn profile should not only reflect your past experience, but also highlight your interests and ambitions.
She also emphasized the importance to share relevant articles on LinkedIn to build engagement with your contacts. Writing your own articles and showcasing your expertise are even better strategies to build your brand.
I've noticed that when I share insightful articles on LinkedIn I have more views on my profile, and it is usually when people also reach out offering new collaborative opportunities.
I hope you are now convinced that you need to constantly flex your social muscles and that networking should be an integral part of your routine. Changing is not easy, but if you make the initial effort and keep consistent, you'll start experiencing results and, before you think, the new task becomes a habit.