How to Build a Meaningful Network (even during a Pandemic)

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Networking can seem intimidating at times and coupled with a global pandemic, it can sound even more daunting during a time of social distancing and self isolation. People often associate networking with small talk, elevator pitches, and stacks of business cards. But the key to successful networking is to get to know people, have genuine conversations, and provide value, all while bringing a sense of curiosity to the conversation. To ease some of the tensions surrounding networking, here is some of our advice for building a meaningful network:

1. Reflection Questions

What are your values? What are your workplace values, interests, and career aspirations? Where do you see yourself in 5 years? How are you going to get there? Ask yourself these questions in order to know who to reach out to and even help you narrow your job search.

2. Reach out

Reach out to people in an industry or specific role that excites you! Write a personalized LinkedIn message along with a connection request. Of course, with the 210 character limitation of LinkedIn, it is impossible to say everything. A great way to structure your message is by introducing yourself with your name, major, college career aspirations, and what specifically you want to talk about with them. If you message a college alum, be sure to establish that point of connection too!

3. Follow up after you connect

After someone accepts your connection request, be sure to follow up by thanking them for accepting. In that message, you can provide more detail about why you are reaching out, and make the ask and inquire about their availability for a quick coffee chat. This short message helps to prompt the next step. Don’t be afraid to follow up if you don’t hear back after a week or so; it is easy for messages and emails to be overlooked during a work day.

4. Do your homework and come with questions

Congratulations! You're penciled into their calendar. What next? Spend some time researching their background on LinkedIn and coming up with specific questions you’d like to address.

5. Introduce yourself

While you have researched about their background, it is probable that they know very little about you. The beginning of the call is a great opportunity for you to establish and highlight similarities between you and the other person, creating a casual environment to open the conversation.

6. Lean in, lean out

Ask your questions and be an engaged listener. Remember that the conversation should flow between the two of you. Take notes throughout the conversation and be mindful of their time by watching the clock.

7. Say thank you!

Within 24 hours of the conversation, express your gratitude to the other person via LinkedIn message or email. Be sure to cite a specific aspect of the conversation that was especially helpful and thank them for taking the time to chat. This is a seemingly small gesture, but definitely goes a long way. 

8. Build a relationship

Building meaningful relationships requires more than just a single coffee chat. Make the conscious effort to build upon the relationship. You could share a relevant article with them, or provide them with a professional update. Go the extra mile to build upon that relationship you’ve formed with the preliminary coffee chat. You got this and good luck!

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