Creating Professional Connections in the Age of COVID-19
By John Walker
Every new year brings hope about fresh beginnings and optimism for the future. We enter the new year ready to execute strategic plans in collaboration with our colleagues, clients and stakeholders. In the past, that often meant meeting in person to make sure we would be clearly aligned on priorities and to build consensus on our roles, responsibilities and metrics.
After nearly a year of coronavirus shutdowns, we might soon travel again to attend in-person conferences and client events, and to meet in-person with colleagues and clients to discuss strategic imperatives.
Since March 2020, we’ve learned to fulfill our professional responsibilities remotely and to live our lives virtually, from socially distanced birthday parties and family gatherings held online to virtual all-hands meetings.
What might be called the “next normal” has upended our professional and personal lives in ways we could not have imagined a year ago. But it has also reminded us what really matters: aligned values, similarities and commonalities that create connections.
And while it’s nice to connect with people in-person, even when working remotely during the pandemic we still have an immense potential to cultivate professional relationships and networks.
How we network to build our brands, professional contacts and circles of friends has not changed. Humans still bond over the things they have in common.
We thrive by helping each other reach our potentials. During the pandemic we might be constrained by screens, physical distance and even bandwidths, but we’re still empowered to connect. Here are four ways to do just that.
Have a reason for connecting.
Before reaching out to connect with someone, we should have a purpose for doing so, and be ready to clearly state how connecting would benefit both parties. Perhaps we have expertise that would benefit the other person, or they possess a skill that we hope to master.
By having a purpose and approaching others with a clear value proposition, we increase our chances of building new, meaningful connections.
Find common ground.
Mutual interests and experiences give us reasons to connect with other people. Perhaps we both attended the same college, live in the same neighborhood, or have kids at the same school. Maybe we have another contact in common, or we both enjoy books by the same author. By doing a little homework, we can find similarities with other people that help us connect and expand our networks.
Make connections mutually beneficial.
Building networks is fundamental to our professional success, particularly in the public relations field. We all have ways that we can benefit one another, but first we have to make sure those benefits are clear and reciprocal.
Perhaps you have a professional connection that would benefit someone else, or they have information that could benefit you. But rather than wonder what we can gain for ourselves, we should think about how we can benefit one another.
People do business with people they like and enjoy getting to know. By being authentic and showing others what makes us unique (including the good, bad and ugly), we can make a mark and build our brands.
Technology, physical distances and bandwidth limitations will always exist, but how we connect and build networks will remain the same. We just have to remember what motivates us as people and how connecting with one another can provide mutual benefits.
Don’t let COVID-19 constraints impede your success. Find ways to rise to the occasion.