Maintaining your professional network

Tips for (Safely) Maintaining and Building Your Professional Network

The coronavirus has forced everyone to take a step back from trying to improve their cash flow and take a ‘get back to the basics’ approach. The ability to build a professional network and strengthen existing relationships or make new contacts is just one more area of business that has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Most small businesses rely on being able to establish professional relationships with clients, co-workers, and colleagues for business opportunities and referrals. But the coronavirus pandemic has forced many business staff members to work from home and cancel in-person networking events and conferences.

While recent developments might have made traditional networking opportunities more challenging, safer alternatives for building professional connections still exist. Here are some tips for staying on top of maintaining and expanding your professional network.

Check-In First

Many professionals tunnel on the idea of meeting new people and expanding their lists of potential collaborators and mentors. But it’s equally vital that you maintain the connections you’ve already made.

With so much changing in a small span of time, now is the time to touch base with folks who are already in your professional network:

  • Pick up the phone or send an email to people you may not have communicated with in the past several months.
  • Lead off by asking how they’re doing. These are difficult times for everybody, so don’t hesitate to check in on how they’re adjusting to changes brought on by COVID-19.

Many will appreciate you reaching out. This simple act will help you retain valuable relationships well into the future.

Use Social Media

When done strategically, using social media is a simple but effective way to expand your network. Professionals live on Twitter and LinkedIn, and most love to get engagement after they post something:

  • Twitter is an excellent place to meet people. It is more fast-paced, but don’t ignore business opportunities on LinkedIn, particularly if you are in the finance space.
  • LinkedIn gives you the opportunity to build your network through mutual connections, join groups that share your expertise and interests, and engage in conversations related to your industry.

Before you approach someone, spend a few minutes researching their profiles. Maybe you have mutual connections or interests that you can mention. It’s also fair to assume others will take a look at your information, so make sure your social media profiles are up-to-date and professional.

Attend Virtual Conferences

In-person industry conferences are off the table for now, but that doesn’t mean they’ve been canceled. Many now take place online and provide significant opportunities for networking.

Networking can be easier at digital conferences than in-person. When you meet people at a conference, it’s often one at a time. You shake hands, exchange business cards, and promise to connect later.

With a digital event, you have wider access to more people and the connections are instant. You can have discussions, follow each other on social media, and even set up a follow-up meeting on the spot with access to your online calendars.

Participate in Forums

You will likely find online discussion forums that cater to just about any interest from cave diving to personal finance to the trucking industry. Forums have always been excellent sources of information and education, but they have become more relevant to networking in 2020.

If you haven’t done so yet, investigate forums in your industry and other areas of interest. Join and start asking questions or participating in conversations to meet some new people.

Consider Blogging

Not every business owner or professional blogs, but now is a good time to take a closer look at ways to build your business or professional brand. Instead of pursuing new contacts and being solely focused on improving cash flow, post content that brings them to your virtual doorstep. You can set up your own blog or use a site like Medium, which has become popular in many industries. You can also use LinkedIn’s long-form posts as well so others can see your blog there.

Step Outside the Box

The COVID-19 crisis has forced professionals and businesses to adapt, and technology has been able to help many to fill in the gaps. Many have been able to work from home, but also get tips for succeeding with new ways of getting things done and business referrals when appropriate.

There are also many ways to connect with people and expand your professional network that don’t involve face-to-face meetings. For instance, with more people telecommuting, there are nearly half a million members in various “Work at Home” groups. Professionals who devote the time and resources to these networking will lay the foundation for growth in the future.

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