While the old professional mantra of “network, network, network” still holds true in 2021, social distancing and the shift to remote work has made it a bit more difficult to follow.
However, networking isn’t limited to in-person meetings and huge conferences. There are many simple ways to expand and strengthen your network, no matter where you are.
To help, the members of Business Journals Leadership Trust share 15 simple strategies for leaders and professionals looking to network in the era of social distancing and working from home.
1. Challenge yourself to meet new people.
One of the most important and significant activities any professional leader should do is network! I have always challenged myself to meet at least 25 new people each month. Networking happens in every context of life, including in grocery stores, restaurants and at conferences. In 2020, I have found that professional networking sites have been a great supplement and I have already met over 100 new people. – Marc Sweeney, Profero Team LLC
2. Join a board.
Draw from your internal motivation and interests, whether it be a charity or alma mater and serve that organization. It will feel good to do and you’ll get to be around people with similar interests while doing it — with the networking results being an added benefit. – Erin Scannell, Heritage Wealth Advisors
3. Reach out to your existing contacts.
We do business with people, so despite staying safe at home right now, we must continue to nurture our relationships. Reach out to your contacts with a call, text, email or even a small gift or piece of swag in the mail. These simple gestures make a huge impact. Because we’re all craving human interaction right now, set up virtual coffee meetings or virtual happy hours to simply connect and learn. – Angela Hurt, Veracity Consulting
4. Keep a consistent schedule of reaching out to new people.
Set a time each day, week or month to reach out to three to five new people to connect. The size of my workload determines the frequency at which I do this but at minimum once a month. My go-to sources are LinkedIn, articles/blogs I’ve read or subject matter experts I follow or have found on social media. Reach out via email or LinkedIn, offer specific windows of availability and follow through with personalized connections. – Liz Wooten-Reschke, Connect For More
5. Spend time leaving comments and sending messages.
With social distancing, networking is easier than it has ever been because it’s not necessary to get on a plane or commute into the city to meet others. Once a week, simply spend 25 minutes leaving five thoughtful comments on different posts, writing two messages to check in and sending one connection request with a personalized note. After 10 weeks, you are sure to have made at least five new connections. – Vincent Phamvan, Vyten Career Coaching
6. Engage with new groups.
There are lots of events happening in remote settings, so find a new group to engage with. Find one with interactive events that include breakout rooms, conversations and engagement. The key to expanding your network is to follow up with the people you met to start building relationships. Coffees over Zoom is highly effective for building and sustaining relationships. – Laura Doehle, Elevation Business Consulting
7. Encourage your entire team to network.
Increase the breadth of the workforce that participates in networking. Networking is typically owned by a sales/business development team. Provide non-traditional networking people in other departments with guidelines and tools on everything from how to post on social media to how to send an email. Motivate them to participate and encourage them to join virtual meetups. They may then feel more ownership in your firm. – Matthew Johnston, Design Interactive Inc
8. Engage on LinkedIn.
Get serious about engaging on LinkedIn. Don’t go looking for people to prospect, pitch or cold call. Find people to genuinely engage in a conversation with either directly in their posts or by separately messaging them. LinkedIn may not be how you do business today, but it is not going away as it’s available to everyone in business. A positive, genuine presence there matters more every day. – Billy Hodges, Digital Filaments
9. Reconnect with former contacts.
Business leaders and professionals can continue to network by leveraging existing relationships and building new relationships through LinkedIn. During this time, I’ve made a consistent effort to reconnect with former contacts. I’ve started creating original content through LinkedIn’s article feature to try and develop my personal network while in-person events are on hold. – William Balderaz, Futurety
10. Offer your professional help.
Pay it forward by using your professional skills to help others. It could be a nonprofit, a professional organization or club that you belong to. You could even approach your business clients and ask how you could help them — possibly referring new business to them or sharing them with your business network online. Acts of kindness speak loudly. – Keith Woods, KB Woods Public Relations
11. Pick up the phone.
Go old school and pick up the phone! Take this opportunity to reconnect more deeply one-on-one in real-time with key contacts in your existing network. Offer your assistance to them and to anyone else they think you might be able to help. – Cheryl Williams, Hudgins Williams Associates
12. Attend virtual conferences.
In-person events have been largely paused, but virtual events have grown appreciably. Many business conferences have gone virtual with networking components as part of the conference, and there are plenty of virtual events on sites like Meetup or Eventbrite. Many BNI or referral groups have also gone virtual and this is another great opportunity to a virtual network with local professionals. – Matthew Halle, Lead2Growth
13. Join and engage in LinkedIn Groups.
Join LinkedIn Groups. These offer us as business owners a place to collaborate, share ideas and just gain insight from others. LinkedIn allows you to join up to 50 groups, so it’s important to focus your time and effort on where you can add value and have engaging conversations with people in your network. The more groups you join, the better. – Scott Scully, Abstrakt Marketing Group
14. Host small group meetings.
Engage in a small group. Tag a colleague and each of you can bring a friend who could benefit from knowing each other. Make time for this in your calendar every week or month. Have a Zoom happy hour or “get to know” call where an intimate connection can be made. A personal connection is the best type of networking. – Rachel Namoff, Arapaho Asset Management
15. Audit your current network.
Take an inventory of your current network and see where there might be gaps. Do you need more contacts within a particular industry or company? If yes, find someone in your network and proactively reach out to share your goals and request introductions. – Joey Johnsen, Zeevo Group LLC