Think about your career pre-pandemic. After work, you might stop by a networking event for people in your field. You might be sitting at a bar waiting for a friend when you strike up a conversation with a stranger who happens to have your dream job. You might cold email a potential mentor to ask for a coffee meeting. Basically, networking was a lot more straightforward. Now, though, many people are still working remotely, and maintaining or expanding their professional networks is the last thing on their mind. Enter Tiffany Dufu, an author and renowned voice in the women’s leadership movement. We recently spoke to Dufu for her tips on how to network during the pandemic, and her advice was equal parts motivational and doable. Read on for five simple ways to stop Covid-19 from getting in the way of your career goals.
1. Know Your Purpose
“Networking right now is not organic,” Dufu admits. “You’re not just going to randomly bump into somebody at a cocktail party.” That’s why she says it’s more important than ever to be super clear about how and why you want to expand your network. Are you looking for a new job? Are you trying to expand your personal brand? Are you hoping to diversify your network? Once you know your purpose, you can tailor your networking strategies and your approach.
2. Scan Your Digital Footprint
Your Instagram is all beautiful photos of lattes and flowers, your Twitter is brimming with political tweets and your LinkedIn is dormant, save for the occasional comment on a friend’s post. Because we live in such a digital world, and anyone you’re connecting with professionally can (and probably will) Google you, Dufu stresses the importance of a consistent online presence. What does that mean? Using herself as an example, Dufu says, “My life’s work is advancing women and girls. It doesn’t matter whether you check me out on LinkedIn or Facebook or Twitter or even just Googling my name, very quickly you’re going to know, ‘Oh, this is someone who cares about women, this is a feminist who has been knee-deep in this work for some time.’” She adds that it’s important that you try to maintain consistency around your image and your messaging, which will make you more memorable to potential connections.
3. Leverage Your Real In-Person Network
“This is the time to go back to people who you’ve worked with in the past and to reinvigorate some of those relationships,” Dufu tells us. “It’s a lot easier when you have history with someone.” Yes, it can feel awkward to reach out to an old colleague you haven’t talked to in five years, but just because you haven’t maintained that relationship doesn’t mean it’s too late to revive it. “You’d be surprised how many people would be delighted to hear from you,” Dufu notes.
4. LinkedIn Is Your Friend
Admitting that there haven’t been a ton of positives to come out of the past year, Dufu explains that one good thing is that the pandemic has removed the friction for connecting. “It used to be that if someone reached out to me and asked to connect to me, most of the time they’d be asking for a meeting, which would require me to commute, find a coffee shop, order a $7 latte that I don’t need and then take the time to get to know them before commuting back. We’re talking about sometimes two hours for one connection.” Now, though, folks can reach out and suggest a 15 or 20 Zoom intro meeting, which is a lot easier to say yes to. Dufu adds, “This is a really great opportunity for people who are trying to expand their network, to know that they might be able to get to someone they wouldn’t have before.”
5. Find Your Crew (or “Cru”)
Dufu founded The Cru a few years ago as a tool for women to be matched with other women they can collaborate with to meet their life goals. The platform’s mission is to take the work out of networking. After applying to be a member, you’re matched with a circle of seven other women who you collaborate with. Even if you’re not a part of a networking platform like The Cru, the point is to lean on people who share your goals and motivations. Remember, if you want to go quickly, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.