Research shows that people's networks shrank by nearly 16% during the recent pandemic. Employers practically all shut down in-person meetings and conferences. So, many organizational leaders replaced those meetings with video conference calls. This change had a dramatic effect on how we communicate and stay connected. Some may think we were more connected, but the research tells a different story.
The pandemic influenced a shift in how we communicate and decreased our networking activities. This decrease is primarily due to less interaction with strangers and more interaction with family and close friends. The total number of family and friends in our inner circle is small. This smaller inner circle contrasts too much larger outer rings of contacts.
Let's consider the well-known belief of "Six degrees of Separation." We are all connected through five intermediaries or less. These circles of influence beyond our first inner circle have more contacts the further you go.
Before you start growing your network, we should define your purpose. Better yet, find a higher purpose if you are serious about succeeding. Networking for just networking serves no purpose. However, when you identify a higher purpose, it will be easier to devise your networking strategy. For example, a higher purpose in performance coaching could be to help others achieve their potential.
Also, I recently read that a woman did not like to network. Her colleagues reminded her of a higher purpose. They reminded her that women's voices are underrepresented in business and that the media attention that she could receive by speaking up would help counter gender bias.
So, we must focus on developing our network of contacts with a higher purpose. Otherwise, our network will continue to shrink. So, how do we begin reconnecting again? I propose 12 Fresh Networking Tips For a Post-Pandemic World. Create meaningful relationships today that you can cultivate tomorrow.
1. Making connections is more difficult now
These video calls served a purpose but made cultivating relationships and meaningful connections challenging to achieve. If you are still working remotely, hybrid, or have returned to the office, making connections now requires more effort and a strategy than before.
2. Not everyone enjoys networking
First, let's be honest. Not everyone enjoys networking. Many feel uncomfortable, awkward, or phony when networking. It is easy to see that extroverts who thrive on social interaction have an easier time networking than introverts. Some introverts are offended by networking, saying that it is ingenious and sometimes brownnosing. So, introverts, be not offended; we need to connect with you.
3. Effective stakeholder management increases opportunities
I have coached hundreds of individuals over 20 plus years. In addition, I have placed even more middle to senior-level leadership positions. I have found that success often depends on managing networking effectively with internal and external stakeholders. More job opportunities, increased market knowledge, and faster advancement come from better communication with others. The idea is to develop a tailored communication plan for each stakeholder. Then, schedule and implement your stakeholder communication plan.
4. Change your mindset to more of a learning focus
We should adjust our networking focus from collecting contacts to generating a list of knowledge-share opportunities. This action will pivot our mindset towards learning and opportunities. As we do this, personal advancement is made possible. Instead of seeing networking as an obligation, our shift to a knowledge-share direction will lead us towards mutual growth and success.
5. Identify shared interests of others in network selection
Identifying shared interests is an ideal way to start on your new networking track. Talking to someone who shares your values and interests is much easier than making a cold call in person or online. For example, in my church, it is easy to make new friends in new places globally. When we meet for the first time, we automatically know we have many shared values and priorities without asking.
6. A strong network is crucial for entrepreneurial success
I have now coached over 400 start-up CEOs on their business model. They must develop their network. Being an entrepreneur can be lonely. Most people do not see or understand entrepreneurial ways of thinking. Why should they? However, a fellow entrepreneur usually has the empathy to listen constructively.
7. It is better to give than receive
In addition, it is better to give than receive. Be careful about asking for something before you give. What goes around comes around. For example, suppose you are planting seeds of trust, confidence, and honesty. In that case, others will trust, have faith and be honest with you. The opposite is also true. You reap what you sow.
8. Be aware that many contacts hunger for more interaction
The increased use of video conferencing does not seem to help us connect or maintain our connections. Most of my close connections express that they hunger for more interaction. Our global executive search partners recently met in person after a 2 ½ year of departure from face-to-face meetings. The consensus from our international partners was that we missed our face-to-face meetings, and the lack thereof did affect our business negatively.
9. A phone call can reduce stress
Reconnecting with our contacts helps maintain relationships. While it is easier to meet online, a brief phone call can also be very effective. In one study, a phone call was almost as good as a hug, as it reduced cortisol levels, a biological marker of stress. This personal connection helps us to keep connected and understood by others.
Judith E. Glaser said, "When we face criticism, rejection, or fear when we feel marginalized or minimized, our bodies produce higher levels of cortisol, a hormone that shuts down the thinking center of our brains and activates conflict aversion and protection behaviors. We become more reactive and sensitive. We often perceive even greater judgment and negativity than exists. And these effects can last for 26 hours or more, imprinting the interaction on our memories and magnifying its impact on our future behavior. Cortisol functions like a sustained-release tablet – the more we ruminate about our fear, the longer the impact."
10. Other networking platforms: Connect
Stay in contact once you have established a connection via telephone or e-mail. Connect with your contacts on their platforms, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, etc.
11. Introductions: Ask for introductions
Ask someone to introduce you. In Asia, a personal introduction to someone you want to meet by e-mail, phone call, or face to face is still the best way to build meaningful; relationships. There are many cross-cultural differences worldwide, but personal introductions do well across all cultures. Express why you want to meet and your purpose. Also, make it easy for the person making the introduction by giving the person in writing your motive or any introductory material about yourself necessary for the introduction. You want to make it as easy as possible for the person to introduce you.
12. Introductions: Always express gratitude and thanks
Always express gratitude to anyone who assists you. For example, I always encourage the candidates I submit for employment interviews to send a brief thank you note to the interviewer. Your interest level in the position does not matter, but your professionalism does matter. For example, I had a situation where a client was struggling with which candidate to hire. He liked both of the final two candidates equally, for different reasons. So, it came down to the one that sent him a thank you note. One sent a note, and another ignored my advice and did not send a thank you note.
In conclusion, I hope these 12 Fresh Networking Tips For a Post-Pandemic World will help you develop your new networking plan. Happy networking.