By: Mike Cashion, MFF Director of Operations
June 1, 2020
The Pandemic and the Pivot
It is not new anymore. The pandemic has reshaped all of our lives in a big way. As of May 29, 2020, more than 21 million people in the United States have continued to apply for unemployment. Many have shifted to working from home, learning from home, teaching from home and interacting with people digitally via video or voice. Water cooler conversation, meeting a friend for coffee, randomly crossing paths with people, meetings, conferences, special events, fundraisers, work dinners, and social hours have been put on hold. My business cards have been collecting dust over the last twelve weeks. So what does this all mean now while interaction is limited, and what does it mean in the future as life starts to look less like quarantine, masks and distancing?
Why is it important to cultivate your professional relationships now?
Things are really different right now. It can feel tough to think beyond the here and now, but this will pass. We will need to go back to work/school or begin searching for work. Things have changed, and they will not fully go back to what they looked like in the beginning of 2020. Unemployment is high, jobs will continue to be scarce, people will slowly go back to socializing, but what does not change is that we are social animals and we need a strong network to lean on but also support.
What has changed? Not a whole lot actually…
We will need to find new jobs, hire people, bring on new customers, make sales, forge partnerships, raise money, find deals and much more. These will never fully go away. They are all critical pieces of the puzzle that require networking and building relationships. In reality, much has remained the same. Things just look a little different right now.
Communication is still happening, and it is more important than ever. If you do not believe me, look at the growth in video conferencing services, increased internet and phone usage and other collaboration tools. People are hungry for connection right now. This is a great time to build your networking muscles in the virtual world until you can get back to networking in person.
Leverage the technology and work your network
As you know, we are all spending a massive amount of time online. Use the technology that is out there. Now is the best time to use the technology–there is a captive audience on the other side that is likely looking for some human interaction outside of their home.
Remember meeting etiquette
With many people now working from home, some of them have forgotten the common rules of etiquette for meetings. It can be weird for those of us that are interviewing, schooling, and working from home, if your home is not the most conducive environment for it. Remember that even though you are at home, you should go through the motions like you are meeting someone in person or going somewhere. Make sure to start off on the right foot and in the right mindset. Get up at a normal time, shower, clean up, shave, do your makeup, dress the part, make the environment that will be on camera presentable and free of background noise. It can make a huge impact on the meeting. The meeting attendees will appreciate it and have more respect for you.
Be mindful that many people are working from home while teaching their kids
Do not be caught off guard if you hear a child in the background or they show up on screen to ask their parent(s) a question. It is going to happen. People are at home with their families or roommates and there may be neighbors in their building or neighborhood that could be heard.
You can relate and it might even be a great icebreaker. Sharing a story about how you have been working through your own situation at home will show you are human, too. Recently, I was on a Zoom meeting with a friend I had not seen in a long time, and his son needed to ask him something. It actually reminded me to ask him how the family was doing. They recently had a new child and were also navigating school at home with the older kids. Personally, I find it incredibly impressive to see my friends working from home with their kids around. Their children get to see what Mom and Dad do for work, ask questions and learn about what it means to be a working professional.
Get back to your networking
Now is the time to look to the positive. Everyone is still online. Work those networking muscles! Reach out to your network, reconnect with connections, join online groups, participate in online events, and don’t be afraid to set up a few phone calls and video calls. The networking you do now will pay dividends and set you on a great path when we are allowed to network again in person.