Guest blog written by Raheela Rehman – Chair of Cambridge Association for Women in Science and Engineering
For some, the social interaction of networking is an opportunity to thrive, but for others it is akin to an annual dental check-up. Regardless of your profession, industry or background, the power of professional networking on your career cannot be overstated. It is a necessity in your success for more business opportunities, broader knowledge, interdisciplinary collaborations, increased capacity for innovation, improved employment perspectives and essential for career development and progression.
Networks exist everywhere, from formal workplaces to informal meetings e.g. gym classes. The good news is that anyone can create a network. The current coronavirus pandemic has meant face-to-face industry networking events and conferences are for the time being on hold. This increases creative ways of connecting and developing new relationships online. For those who were already working from home, the landscape too has changed. The chance to pop into the office, if you have one, for a face-to-face meeting or grab a coffee with your connection at the newly opened swanky café, at the moment is not an option.
Remote networking has all the rules of traditional networking in-person. In the same way, show generosity and extend yourself to help others before asking for support yourself.
Now is a time to reconnect and touch base with existing contacts. These include former work colleagues, dormant contacts, those from your alma maters and previous club memberships. For many, it is a welcome interaction and a break away from their daily routine. Your shared history is a great starting point to build on your relationships, both personal and professional.
LinkedIn provides numerous groups for various job fields, locations and personal interests. Join relevant groups and participate in forums and discussions. Through regular interaction you will find your natural new connections.
3. Ramp up visibility
Build your visibility to maintain your existing networks and to reach out to new potential connections. Are members of your online networks facing a challenge – explore how you can share your expertise. This too should come from a place genuinely wishing to help, not from that which you only take away.
One of the risks of working from home is the reduced contact with colleagues and becoming invisible to your team. Generate your own “photocopier” moments, where you informally catch up (I don’t have a water-cooler…), share your day, personal experiences or create an informal team online platform thread where you can celebrate birthdays, post photos of pets or your hobby.
Why not increase your visibility and write a blog for CamAWiSE or share your profile in our “Women in STEMM series” – email Rukshana Jaman (CamAWiSE Coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org).
4. Be intentional
It can be easy to let building relationships fall by the wayside, when working from home, juggling additional responsibilities and settling into a new routine. Networking requires a proactive approach. Be intentional in supporting activities you believe in. Interact by email, social media, webinars, online group chats or whichever technology feels most comfortable to you. It is worth noting the old adage of quality over quantity, intentional connections will be deeper.
5. Diversify your network
We are creatures of habit and tend to stick with familiarity. The benefit of a broader network of knowledgeable connections, varying backgrounds, different sectors outweigh the awkwardness of taking that first step. Reflect on your current network and get out of your comfort zone.
To build and maintain your network, nurture relationships and effectively follow-up, as it is an ongoing process. While we work from home in these times, an open mind and positive outlook can be a catalyst in developing relationships. It lays the foundation for future growth for when the pandemic comes to an end, and with people you may do business within the future.