Use Networking to Stay Connected during COVID-19

By Jean Chow

I have this quote taped above my desk:

“We need this. When we meet face to face, we become human. We lift each other up.” ~ Rev. Cecil Williams, Co-Founder and the Reverend in the film “The Pursuit of Happyness”.

Networking and COVID-19

I always ask my learners what “networking” means to them. “Connecting, building relationships, meeting new people, making friends, socializing” are a few of the words mentioned. During COVID-19, having networking skills will help us as Rev. Cecil Williams’ says, “become human” because we need these connections. Technology makes it extremely easy for us to reach out and still maintain social distancing.

Pre-COVID, CPA “Networking 4 Success” Sep 14, 2019 Photo Credit: Alastair Hobson

When teaching networking, the first networking hack I share from my  “Five Hacks for Fearless Networking” © is about showing up and overcoming the fear of social rejection. 

It takes a lot of courage to meet someone new. However, an introvert once told me that meeting on-line was easier because they knew they had an escape hatch and could hit a key and disappear at any time.

Get social – virtually 

A friend keeps a checklist to help her connect with family and friends who are near and dear to her. She also keeps another checklist to help her connect with professional contacts and colleagues.  I keep a professional calendar for my business and add daily to my whiteboard checklist of family and friend contacts. 

How to stay connected? Let me count the ways.

Video Conferencing

Most platforms have similar features – share, chat, raise your hand, etc. Pre-COVID-19, I’ve used GoToMeeting, WebEx, and Zoom to meet my clients.

Having transitioned seamlessly all my in-person classes to virtual, mainly over to Zoom and Blackboard Collaborate, I’m delightfully surprised how much I love teaching virtually. Zoom is so easy. 

Dream Network Drop-in April 28, 2020 – Photo Credit: Jean Chow

Video calling and phone calls

I had planned to visit my 90+ year old parents in Calgary back in April. Instead, my siblings help connect us through video chat and Dad still marvels at how technology can bring us together. He loves touching the screen! Use video calling and phone calls if you want to reach someone you love and someone quickly.

Social Media

You either love it or leave it! I’m highly active on social, connecting and engaging with friends, family, students, mentees, colleagues, clients, acquaintances through comments and messaging on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. 

Even my sister, a latecomer to technology, follows her daily fitness class with her soccer friends and has dangerously embraced shopping online.

LinkedIn helps you to stay relevant with your professional network. Post comments and share regularly if you don’t have time to contribute a post or an article.

Email

As a Boomer, I default to email, but I’m mindful when connecting with my younger friends especially with my 22-year old niece by choosing the channel they are most likely on (FB messenger, IG, Twitter, What’s App Groups, Hangouts, Zoom, Teams and much more.

Use email to connect with people of a certain age (Boomers) and if you need to document important conversations.

Snail Mail

Snail mail also serves a unique and special purpose if you wear a mask to venture out and buy cards and stamps. Say a little prayer when you pop them into the mailbox so that they will reach family, friends, and clients. It’s old school but everyone loves to receive them and it’s the least expected way to connect. Think of it as a special delivery of love, gratitude, and joy inside an envelope sent anywhere in the world and it arrives directly at the recipient’s doorstep. 

Avoid feeling too isolated

All in all, networking is a tool to stay connected. But it’s also just as important to maintain your mental health and connection with yourself and your community. Here’s my best tips to avoid feeling too isolated:

– Keep a journal – digital or paper – is a place to offload your thoughts and feelings. I post in my blog and contribute and share posts and articles on LinkedIn.

– Do something nice for your neighbours whether you live in a condo, apartment building, or a house.  Check in while maintaining a safe social distance and ask if you can pick something up for them if you are making a quick trip to the grocery store.

– Connect with nature. Walking meditation helps and a good one can be found in one of my favourite books, “Peace is Every Step” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

– Meditate even for 5 minutes to help clear your mind.

– Learn something new! With so many topics online – YouTube, IGTV, Coursera, LinkedIn Learning, Lynda, etc., we are fortunate to have access to so much. Not everyone has Internet access. I’m sad to see people hovering around the Toronto Public Library branches trying desperately to get a signal on their phones. We love the Library.

– Establish new routines quickly. It helps ground us and gives us a sense of control. I walk for an hour in Sherwood “Forest” aka Sherwood Park at 7:00 am every day. It allows me to connect with nature and clears my mind so that I can focus better when I’m working.

– Move! Make sure you don’t end up in front of your computer all day long. Stretch, jump up, dance! Do the Wonder Woman power pose made famous by Professor Amy Cuddy in her 2012 TED Talk with over 56 million+ views to date:  “Your body language may shape who you are”.

– Pick up your phone and call someone you love, someone who lives alone, or someone who is in your thoughts. You are in their thoughts, too.

– Take initiative and identify someone you can help by introducing them to someone in your network who can help them.

– Breathe and be thankful for all that you have in this moment. The universe will unfold as it should.

Nothing is forever, not even COVID-19! Keep healthy. Keep safe. Keep connecting.

About Jean Chow:

Jean Chow is a Super Connector! Her high-energy, interactive networking workshops are well-known across the GTA. 

As a networking instructor and sessional lecturer at University of Toronto, Ryerson University, and Seneca College, Jean strongly believes “It’s not what you know nor who you know but who you can help.”

She creatively “connects the seemingly unconnected.” ~ Author William Plomer. Jean’s most powerful network is her squash network!