How To: Network During a Pandemic

In just three weeks, more than 16 million Americans have lost their jobs, and before the coronavirus pandemic fades, many millions more will become unemployed. And that leaves many with only one critical tool to recover their career: network during a pandemic.

To be sure, the normal routes we used—in-person meetings or coffees and networking events—have vanished. Here’s a sobering stat: until COVID-19, event planners were putting together more than 5,200 meetings a day, each with more than 10 attendees. And while the odds of hearing responses to new LinkedIn connections were never great, they are even tinier when people holding jobs are in turmoil themselves

Nonetheless, experts say there are still a host of systematic approaches to remind the business professionals you know that you’re around—and letting others realize you exist. But it’s all different in the era of COVID-19. And trickier. Here are some thoughts on how to network during a pandemic:

“Face-To-Face” Meetups

Networking is often done over coffee or during breaks at a conference, but meeting people in person is almost impossible at the moment. But instead of just settling for a phone call, experts say networkers should set up video chats to actually see each other. The video calls can make it easier to establish a connection and be authentic—especially with a new person.

It’s About Giving, Not Receiving

Nobody should start a network conversation with “I need a job.” Successful networking is about building relationships, experts say.

It can start with making a list of the possible things you can do for people in your network. Perhaps you can make a connection to an important partner in someone’s field. Or point to a little-noticed but important new research paper. Even small things, experts say, if done sincerely and are genuinely meaningful to the other person, can jump-start your networking.

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