Almost 85 percent of all jobs are filled through networking, but during times of social distancing, traditional networking may not be an option. With the soaring number of unemployment claims due to COVID-19 and nonessential business closures, many people are seeking new positions. While building a network may be difficult with limited face-to-face meetings, you can still make connections that will help advance your career from home. 

Determine Networking Goals

Take time to set goals for what you would like to accomplish while you practice networking in a new way. For example, if you previously had a goal to develop your public speaking skills, set up a call with a friend that can provide constructive feedback and practice by giving them a speech. Not only will this help you gain confidence in your skill, you will be better prepared for when you have the opportunity to give a speech in person.

“One of the most important aspects of networking is building your confidence through your relationships and practicing conversation,” said Guy Gentile founder of DayTraderPro. “The extra down time we have due the coronavirus has also provided us with the opportunity to complete goals we’ve otherwise set on the backburner.” 

Forty-one percent of networkers want to network more frequently but claim they don’t have enough time. Now may be the perfect time to increase connections and reach those goals. Perhaps you want to make five new contacts over the next month or improve existing relationships, write down your goal and make a plan to achieve it. By acknowledging what you want to get done, you are not left in limbo for how to spend your time.

Take Advantage of Online Events

With stay-at-home orders in place across the country, many upcoming conferences and events that professionals often rely on to network, have been cancelled or postponed. However, several organizations have transitioned to host online seminars and events where you can then connect with peers in your field online.

Start by reviewing events you were planning to attend this year. Many organizations websites contain information about cancellations or how they plan to move forward. If you find a conference that is now being held online make sure to virtually attend and reach out to other attendees to introduce yourself. 

Gentile recommends, “Research events you never thought you’d be able to participate in. Thousands of events are going virtual and some at no cost. We now have the opportunity to participate in events across the globe from the comfort of our home. For marketers, this is the perfect time to tap into online platforms to secure existing audiences through virtual engagement and grow your global presence.”

You can also create your own opportunities and set up conference calls with coworkers to help build existing relationships. Acknowledge that during these times, some conversations may be more personal than before and respond with empathy and kindness.

Utilize and Maintain Existing Relationships 

Take note of key relationships, from mentors to mentees, and reach out to them. Send a note to touch base to see how they are doing and find out the best method to stay connected. Make sure this is not just a one time thing, but rather that you are working to maintain communication to build a lasting relationship. 

“I encourage my mentees to introduce themselves to strangers,” added Gentil. “Take a risk and reach out online. Make those connections via social media. What do you have to lose?”

We’ve all heard the saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” About 80 percent of job listings are never made known to the public, so now is a great time to reach out to your existing contacts to see if they know of any possible openings or can put you in contact with someone who may be able to help you advance. 

Another great way to maintain existing relationships is to engage with contacts’ social media. Read, like and comment on posts. If you see a particularly relevant social post, reach out and email your contact, not only is this a great icebreaker, it’s also a great way to illustrate your knowledge about an industry topic. Additionally, consider using the recommendation feature on LinkedIn. Offer to write a recommendation for key allies and ask them to write one in return. This can help boost branding and encourage more connections. 

Expand Your Social Media

Only 11 percent of LinkedIn users have more than 100 people in their network. Take this time to diversify your network and add more connections. Look for those who will help build your career and potential mentors that may have a different career from your own. Another way to connect with other professionals is by utilizing the School search function on LinkedIn to reach out to alumnus from your same university or high school. 

Research companies that you may want to work for and look for contacts that you can reach out to. Don’t be afraid to reach out via message on social media. According to a LinkedIn survey, 35 percent of networkers say that messages have led to new opportunities. While it may seem scary to message a complete stranger, if you do your research and are excited about what a company has to offer, it may lead to a conversation and potentially a new job or opportunity. 

While social isolation may be limiting traditional networking opportunities, we are more equipped than ever before to make connections online. Remember to keep a positive attitude, it’s one of the top characteristics of a great networker. Not every contact will understand what you have to offer, but by setting goals, taking advantage of current events, utilizing existing contacts and making your social media work for you, you may just be able to discover a new job opportunity that you wouldn’t have previously discovered.