Experts in human resources say the time during and after the coronavirus pandemic will be difficult for networkers, especially those looking to propel themselves through relationships to new jobs. And the toughness will go beyond the difficulty of getting in a room together while socially distancing. Some people will be depressed after getting laid off while others will have experienced severe compromises to their regular work schedule.
But experts say that if you communicate the range of skills you are using during your coronavirus experience, you could compel others to be more interested in you during future networking. Below are five examples of these skills.
Nicolle Merrill, the founder of Future Skills, a company that trains employees on how to reuse skills at different jobs, notes in her blog that one of the most impressive things she hears about from people is how they adapt to new career changes. This includes recalibration after automation tools have changed their jobs or how they've adapted to changing positions at new companies every few years.
The coronavirus, then, can be seen as the latest example of a disruptive situation. And how you deal with it will say a lot about your ability to adapt at work. If you have managed to create an efficient work schedule, and are teaching your child from home, all while keeping tabs on the health of an elder, for example, you'll be able to say with confidence during any networking session that you are experienced in pivoting between projects under duress. Every networker and future employer will look for that type of flexibility in a person.
2. Personal connections
The pandemic is sadly the ultimate relatable experience. With over 188 countries affected and more than 5 million people infected at press time, COVID-19 is the most impactful event for the most people in the shortest time in history. Since everyone is affected, it also means you have something to talk about with anyone at any networking session, be it in-person or online. And you can also connect specific aspects of your pandemic experience to your career.
Consider the way millions of people have reached out to help strangers in need in the last two months. If you donated money to an important cause, created PPE masks for hospitals or worked as an essential worker, you will have demonstrated empathetic and brave personal qualities.
If you find yourself in a meeting full of strangers next year, ask about what they did to help others during this time. The eventual personal stories that come out of that conversation will bring down any barriers.
Career expert and bestselling author Bianca Miller-Cole says the organizational skills you are developing or enhancing during the pandemic can help you in the long run. In a column for Forbes Magazine, she says being organized is "essential when going through a crisis like a pandemic, as it requires employers to find someone that is on top of their work and can remain resilient in uncertain and stressful times."
If you are productive and manage to get a lot of tasks done in the middle of COVID-19, you will get kudos from your co-workers, bosses and any future colleagues you will have. Imagine yourself comparing and contrasting the organizational tools you used and developed at a networking party at some point in the future, thinking back about how hard it all was. Most everything after will seem like a cakewalk.
4. Mental focus
Bad political news, raging economic worries, and the unceasing barrage of digital-speed information is making it hard to get through the day. But many people are learning about mindfulness techniques in order to hyperfocus and avoid those distractions.
Whether they're getting zen coaching through Zoom, listening to apps like Calm or just getting out for a bit to walk through the silence of nature, these people are developing skills that will help them for the rest of their lives. Not only will you be able to market your mastery of mental stillness post-COVID-19 but more importantly, it will also allow you to get things done, including hitting networking goals.
Stress and lack of concentration, especially in large, loud groups, are two parts of networking that many people find especially difficult and experts say they can be managed through mindfulness. As noted by the Cincinnati Enquirer, work tasks like these can become easier to handle through better mental focus.
Personal hygiene and presentation is important during networking. For some, that may mean wearing a suit while for others it is ensuring sleep eight hours a day to look fresh and committed to the work at hand. Getting up during quarantine early in the day and taking care of other similar basic, self-care necessities (even if they're only staring into a camera for an hour-long meeting) are other examples that show an incredible example of strong character and willpower that should impress any person in a networking situation.
An applied sports psychology blog mentioned recently that done consistently, self-help behaviors like those above can help people feel "more control and comfort, while modeling healthy, positive behaviors," and can help in their careers.