Do you still network while social distancing? Experts say, networking can be more difficult when done remotely. And it definitely can add to a so-called “Zoom fatigue”! But it’s still of huge importance for your career development. So, how to approach it in a way that is beneficial and not too stressful all at the same time?
Online networking this year substitutes for almost all types of in-person interactions we were used to rely on for growing professional networks and connections within and outside of our industries. At the same time, a lot of people struggle with making genuine connections when all the conversations happen on email and video.
Mindfulness is a proven aid to build better relationships with friends and colleagues. As Denise Fournier, Ph.D., a psychotherapist and adjunct professor at Nova Southeastern University says in her article for Psychology Today, “Using mindfulness in our communication with others can improve our relationships and help us navigate even the most difficult conversations. […] By bringing the practice of mindfulness off the meditation cushion and into your daily conversations, you’ll become a better communicator and enrich your relationships in the process”.
But have you ever tried being mindful and paying attention to being fully present when communicating online?
Mindful Online Networking
All the basics of mindfulness apply to online setting as well: focus on breathing, sense your body, pay attention to the present moment, embrace non-judgmental thinking and beginner’s mind.
But today I want us to explore three less obvious mindful tactics that can make online networking a success.
Be present in the video interaction
Online networking is still networking, including one on one interactions such as phone calls, messaging, and video chats. Speaking of the latter, how do you show your counterpart the genuine interest and remain present to the conversation?
Experts say, it’s quite similar to an in-person meeting. They advise on the following:
- Remove all possible distractions when preparing for a call: technology other than you are in a call on, papers. Find a quite and calm place to sit.
- Be an active listener: smile in response, nod, make your hands visible in order to use gestures to confirm you are following their story.
- Eye contact IS important: but it’s a bit trickier online. When you speak, try to look directly to the camera, but when they speak, look at them on your screen.
Say thank you in a right way
Being thankful is one of key elements of happiness. Expressing gratitude is one of key elements of building connection. But how to do this right? UC Berkeley’s Emiliana Simon-Thomas says there is much more to that than just saying “Thank you” often. When voicing your gratitude, build it on 1-2-3 principle:
- Be specific about what you’re saying thank you for
- Acknowledge the effort involved
- Describe how it benefits you
Expressing gratitude in such detailed manner benefits not only you, but also the one that you thank, expert says.
If you are struggling to make friends remotely, this HBR publication lays out a few steps you can take to build a cadence with others that will ultimately lead to a more meaningful bond.
Be your authentic self
Surprisingly, being your authentic self is something that increases your emotional intelligence, research says. That trait helps develop your career and personal relationships.
So, bringing your authentic self into an online conversation can be of huge help to building connection. Why is that more difficult on video? We tend to be more divided between our physical environment and online “room” where conversation happens.
Seeing oneself on camera as one speaks also makes a person more cautious about how they look and how they are being perceived. With this in mind, we can make a conclusion that in video chat conversationalist can be less authentic.
With that in mind, try to focus on what’s going on in the chat, not how you look in it, be genuine and authentic.
Ideas to grow online networks
In conclusion, I’d like to touch just briefly on some basic ways to move your networking efforts online now that in-person events are not available at their previous scale.
- Leverage LinkedIn (find some tips on making your LinkedIn profile a strategic asset in one of our articles)
- Use networking apps to identify online events that are relevant to your occupation and aspiring goals
- Subscribe to the updates provided by networking websites and services to get notifications about such events
- Reach out to people 1:1 via email or direct messages on social media and ask for a brief chat in old-fashioned way, on a phone call.
Good luck in your online networking!