Networking is tough–especially now.
If you’ve been looking for a new job during the pandemic, you know how hard it’s been. Putting yourself out there for networking, mining for opportunities and interviewing are never easy. But during these times, you deserve even more credit for the hard work you’re doing.
How do you keep your spirits up and stay positive? How do you maintain optimism and ensure you keep trudging forward? How do you maintain resilience when things feel so uncertain?
The answer lies in both your perspective and your practices. Here are a few suggestions to keep in mind.
First, mindset makes a big difference.
Be real. Some pop-psychological advice recommends you keep a positive attitude at all costs. But taking this Pollyanna approach—where you deny your negative feelings—can backfire. Instead, give yourself permission to struggle and acknowledge how difficult things are. In a scientific study, volunteers who were trying to make lifestyle changes, and who were provided with validation for their tough journeys, made positive change more effectively than those fed only cheerleading, you-can-do-it type messages. If you’re not struggling during tough times, you may be deluding yourself. Give yourself permission to be less than chirpy or constantly content.
Pull yourself up. After you’ve validated your how hard things are, pull yourself up and keep going. It’s a balance—you want to give yourself the opportunity to feel real emotions, but not to wallow. Use moments of negativity as an outlet and then set your direction and your determination to keep going. As Robert Frost said, “The best way out is always through.” Remind yourself about your skills and talents. Recall all the success you’ve had so far and keep going.
Focus on the future. Remind yourself this will pass, and you’ll get through it. Prompt yourself with the learning you’re doing about grit and determination. Stay optimistic and hopeful and base your action plan on the present—where it will make the most difference. This too is a balance—looking ahead to a hopeful future, while also ensuring you’re anchored in what will make the greatest impact today.
In addition to your perspective, you’ll also want to consider your networking practices—the efforts and approaches which will have the greatest effect for getting you through to the other side.
Consider effort and impact. One of the keys to networking is making connections with the right people. Rather than making a list of the bazillion people with whom you could network, plan to connect with those who can be most helpful. Everyone you meet has value, but some will be able to help you more than others. Seek out and spend time with the people who can contribute most based on their roles, their proclivity to assist or the strength of your relationship. If you don’t know someone yourself and you’ve been connected based on a mutual contact, that matters too. Usually the strength of the relationship between your contact and the new contact matters a lot—strong relationships between your contact and the new contact can translate into a willingness for the new contact to help you (a weaker tie, not so much). Every networking call you make is an investment of your time and—even more—your energy, so be selective about the people with whom you seek to network.
Manage your approach. Part of what makes networking so time-intensive and so exhausting, is that so much is out of your control. The people with whom you need to connect may not have time for you, or your colleague may not have gotten around to making the introduction you requested. Reenergize yourself by controlling what you can. Make lists of the people with whom you need to connect. Manage your time. Plan your conversations. Small, straightforward steps like these are effective, but they can also help you feel a greater sense of control in a difficult time.
Spend time in safe harbors. Recently, a friend said she was so glad to have a “no-lipstick meeting.” By this, she meant that all her recent video calls and coffee chats had required her to be “on stage.” She was happy to connect with someone in a more informal way. As you’re networking, your schedule will be packed with highly important conversations, and these can take a lot of vigilance. Be sure to also set aside time with people where you can let your hair down and be yourself without worrying about the impression you’re making. This kind of connection can give you respite—a safe harbor in a choppy sea.
Be intentional. In the same way you spend time with those who provide safe-harbor support, also be sure you plan for ways to rejuvenate. Find people who believe in you, build you up and support you. Find experiences you love. Also seek activities which require you to stretch physically. Even if you’re not mountain climbing, if you’re accomplishing a tough yoga position or conquering a rugged hike, challenging physical activities can help you feel more capable and strong in other areas of your life. The break from networking to jumping on your bike is a good one. Push yourself to accomplish that last mile to validate your strength and capability.
Networking has perhaps never been harder than it is right now. But with the right perspectives and practices, you can get through it and find your next great opportunity. Be real, pull yourself up and focus on the future. In addition, prioritize based on effort and impact, take back control by planning your approach, spend time in safe harbors and be intentional about rejuvenating. These strategies will help you not only survive the process, but also explore the best new possibilities for your career.
This content was originally published here.