Staying Connected in a Virtual World From navigating challenges to finding new career opportunities, networking plays an important role in career success. For most of us, when we think about networking, we have a vision of events that take place in person (i.e. conferences, after work happy hours, or luncheons). We had a belief that the “in-person” element was necessary to develop long-lasting professional relationships. The pandemic has challenged us to think about networking in new and creative ways. Events have been canceled or shifted to virtual platforms, which makes connecting with new colleagues a challenge. As “social distancing” restrictions continue to shift, the likelihood of in-person events appears to be in the distant future. Although the pandemic has put traditional networking opportunities on hold, there are still many ways to develop and maintain professional relationships virtually. Explore new ways of connecting. As suggested in “Thrive Global”, just because we can’t physically be connected, doesn’t mean we can’t stay socially connected! It’s easy for professional relationships to seem distant when working from home, which is why it’s important to schedule time in your calendar to connect with the people who matter most to you – both in your personal life and in your business network. Video calls, emails, and text messages are several ways to connect with one another and maintain relationships, even when we can’t physically be together. Virtual Events are the “New Normal”. Due to working from home, many of us have now transitioned from in-person meetings and events to entirely virtual gatherings. Screen time (for most of us!) is at an all-time high. Although the thought of attending another virtual event may feel exhausting or repetitive, virtual conferences are still a great way to connect with new people outside of your “circle”. When having a virtual meeting, opt for Video. For many people, building new relationships is hard without face-to-face contact. Turning on video during a virtual meeting not only allows new colleagues to put a name to a face, it also allows your coworkers to see and understand your facial expressions, which adds context when having a discussion. To reduce “zoom fatigue” you can use the “hide self-view” feature. Create your own networking events. In a Harvard Business Review article, Alisa Cohn and Dorie Clark suggest turning canceled conferences into your own private networking opportunities. Review the schedule of past conferences you would have attended. See if there is anyone (both speakers or attendees!) that you are interested in connecting with and invite them to a private networking event. Support the people in your network. As we transition into this new way of work and continue to adapt to the constantly changing ways of life, it can be hard to feel grounded. By reaching out to your colleagues, both past and present, it lets them know that you’re thinking of them. This also serves as a great opportunity to reconnect with the people who you lost contact with over the past year. Use this time to ask how others are doing, or what career shifts they have made during the pandemic.