Three years ago, I attended a conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia, (in-person!) where I presented a conference paper and did some networking. Then, last year, I attended my first conference since the pandemic hit, which also happened to be my first online conference: Collision 2021. This year, however, I’ve already attended two—one of which was entirely online; the other, partly bimodal, but mostly in-person. And although almost everyone seems to agree Zoom just isn’t quite as nice as being in-person, it’s important to recognize the pros and cons of each. More importantly, it’s important to remember how drastically conferences and other events have changed in the past couple of years, and how fortunate we are to often have the choice to attend bi-modal and online conferences. Let’s take a look at how you can use these changes to improve how you network in the year 2022.
Networking in 2022: It’s All about Adapting
As we’ve learned, the past two years have been all about being adaptable. In some ways, the changes we’ve seen in the past two years have made circumstances more difficult for some, as we’ve seen many struggle with working from home, especially with Zoom fatigue and burn out. In other ways, though, we’ve seen workplace circumstances become much easier to navigate, like networking. Remote work has been a game changer in this way, since conferences, interviews, and other professional events were largely exclusive to in-person circumstances. With this massive increase in remote work, events are now becoming accessible from anywhere in the world. As well, by being online, these events are now removing certain obstacles that may be inevitable in-person.
For example, many may feel intimidated by large crowds in professional settings and may feel anxious networking in gatherings like this in-person. Many also may have challenges like finding daycare for their children, or even buying a professional outfit for an event. At the same time, many may just find it easier to mingle with strangers or mere acquaintances in professional settings if the event is online. For one, an online event may be easier to be able to leave and come back if you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious and may just need a breather. For another, online events can open up possibilities beyond those in your immediate vicinity. But why is networking so important, anyways?
Why Networking Is More Important than Ever Before
Especially after having not networked in a while, you may feel a bit rusty and even wonder why networking is necessary. But as The Headhunters note, many jobs and other opportunities are not posted online or in-person. And even if some jobs are posted online, if an employer or recruiter hasn’t added the right keywords or enough information about the posting, job seekers may miss it entirely. And even if you’re not actively looking for a job, you should still always be open to making new connections. After all, you never know when an even better opportunity than the ones you currently have will come knocking. And after two years of very limited networking, now is the time many are coming out of their shells to start back up with their dreams and innovative ideas. You may just be the missing key in something very big!
The same goes for employers and recruiters. Even if you’re not actively looking for a candidate, you never know what existing connections can offer you when you inevitably are. Be open to making connections with folks with the same interests as you or those in the industry who have some good ideas and good work ethic. And even if you don’t end up hiring or recruiting a connection you’ve made, you may even just be inspiring the next generation of workers in your industry.
Top 3 tips for making meaningful connections:
Networking has changed so drastically with all the pandemic has brought about in the workplace. So, the next time you need to make connections, don’t forget some of our best tips:
1. Attend and leverage specialized events
Specialized events are the most likely place you’ll find like-minded people. These events, where either your specialty or your closely related interests are discussed can be crucial to making great strides in your career. For one, you may meet folks with experience who can then offer advice and guidance. For another, you may make lasting connections with people who find you and your talents particularly impressive. And if you play it right, these connections can lead to interviews and other meetings that can progress your career. What’s more, networking within a specialized event can often be more promising for getting what you want to get out of events.
You might, for example, attend a conference to make some strong connections within your field. This means you’ll inevitably have to engage in some small talk with many different people. Certainly, there are ways to navigate small talk, like this Harvard Business Review article suggests. But small talk can be fatiguing and can often get you nowhere. So, make sure you’re attending events that as closely match your field as possible for the most effective networking processes. Even if you only speak briefly, nab the LinkedIn pages or emails of all who seem interesting. That way, you can follow-up after the event to chat more closely one-on-one.
2. Expand and deepen your connections
Part of attending specialized events is making close and more meaningful connections. And this goes hand-in-hand with expanding and deepening connections. The more closely-related an acquaintance’s field in a specialized area, the more likely you’ll be able to make useful connections. This can be awkward at first, but once you’ve established a good foundation of connections in your field, further connections will be that much easier to make. Start by asking others to help introduce you, or introduce yourself through a mutual friend or colleague.
At the same time, don’t be afraid to look outside your country or industry. Think outside the box in terms of where to find like-minded people who you can network with. Start by joining in-person or online groups that are related to and discuss your field in depth. Make sure, however, that you’re presenting yourself both online and your in-person professionally. This goes for both employees/recruiters and job seekers alike, whether you’re actively looking or not!
3. Create opportunities that don’t already exist
While social media is crucial for online networking, as Meridia Recruitment staff note, it’s really only meant to augment other methods. Luckily for us, there seems to be more networking opportunities than ever before. Particularly with all the adapting we’ve been participating in for the past two years, many are taking initiative and starting to create events and other means of meeting others in their field. We’ve seen entrepreneurs start their own events where other entrepreneurs in the same industry can share their ideas and talents.
More importantly, workers in various industries have come to realize that by no means do networking opportunities have to be those that have been already put in place up until the pandemic. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Ask others in your industry to collaborate on a project or event. Share your ideas with your peers. Make nice with people you admire in your field and ask to chat over a cup of coffee, even virtually. You never know what may arise out of your efforts.
Get Out There, Whatever That Means to You
Networking in 2022 may look different from what it looked like in 2019, but in some ways, this is for the best. Networking can be international, accessible, and more comfortable than ever before. With the growing opportunities between online and new in-person events, you’re sure to find the right people, as long as you look in the right places. So, put yourself out there. Make strong connections in your field, and make those connections meaningful and long-lasting.