Living with the COVID-19 pandemic has not been easy by any standard, but it has been especially hard on the workforce of our nation. Many employees were either laid off or given a diminished role in the name of social distancing and general safety. Now that vaccines are making the rounds, many companies are starting to return to business as usual, and they are looking for fresh faces to fill necessary roles within their organizations.
If you are looking for a new job, then this may be your time to shine, but if you don’t know where to start, then it is a smart idea to attend a networking event and meet some like-minded professionals. However, we are still experiencing a pandemic, so caution continues to be necessary. To help you out, we have some advice on how to safely navigate your next networking event.
Preparing for your next networking event
Since we are not officially out of the COVID-19 woods yet, proper preparation is necessary before your in-person networking event. If you haven’t already, then the first step is to get the COVID-19 vaccine and/or your booster shot. Although you may hear varying viewpoints, medical experts assure us that vaccines are safe and effective. Even if you hear stories about vaccinated people who have still contracted the disease, the symptoms are greatly reduced when compared to someone who has not been vaccinated.
If you want to learn the latest news on vaccines, then go directly to the source, which in most cases is the Center for Disease Control, instead of relying on social media or the internet.
Even if you are vaccinated, it is still important to wear a mask to further prevent the possibility of getting COVID-19. Some networking venues may even require it. When it comes to your mask, experts are warning against wearing thin cloth masks, which are less effective. Instead, they advise wearing an N95 mask, which fits more snugly to the face so you can speak with other business professionals with confidence and feel safe in the process.
The other key to staying protected while networking during a pandemic is to maintain a safe distance of six feet from others, so germs cannot easily transfer from you to them and vice versa. To ensure that you can properly social distance, it is a wise idea to check out the venue the night before so you can see how much space is provided and if you will be able to separate yourself as desired. If it appears that you can, then you should be all set to attend the event.
Making a positive impression
When it comes to networking, the same strategies that worked before the pandemic still apply today. You may just need to make some slight modifications for safety. For instance, you will want to make a great first impression as soon as you enter the room by smiling and exuding a sense of comfort and ease, so others will want to approach you.
Some people may feel like they can’t smile or be themselves while wearing a mask, but that is simply not true. While the other person may not be able to see your mouth, you still show obvious signs of your joy and happiness when you smile, even from behind a mask. From the lines that appear on the side of your face to the way your voice elevates when your mouth changes shape, it is clear when you are smiling, even when your face is partially obscured, so smile away!
Another great way to make a positive impression is to shake the hand of the person you are meeting, but the COVID pandemic may have changed this long-honored tradition since it can be easy to touch your face after you shake hands. The good news is that even though you may not feel comfortable making physical contact with the other person, other gestures can take the place of a handshake. For instance, many people have turned to the elbow bump as a way of making that first contact while others are avoiding contact altogether by waving, showing a peace sign, or nodding politely with their head.
If you are especially rattled by the pandemic, and you simply do not feel comfortable being anywhere near other people, that’s okay, but you should probably sit this one out. If you are unable to get close enough to others where they can hear what you say, then you may be wasting your time and theirs. It may be a good idea to hold off on the in-person meetings for a bit longer and instead network online with websites like LinkedIn.
While safety is key during a pandemic, so is actually getting to know some new people who could potentially help you in a new career. With that in mind, you will want to have meaningful conversations with the folks you meet and ask all necessary questions, so you are comfortable with the potential job.
When you intend to meet new people, it is a wise idea to have some talking points that you can turn to if there is a lull in the conversation. For example, you could ask what company they work for or what brings them to this particular event and how they like the venue. Once you have gotten to know the person a bit, start asking about their company and any open positions. If you have made a connection or you want to learn more about the opportunity, then ask for their contact information and reach out later on.
If you are concerned about COVID during the networking event, then you are probably also understandably concerned about what your new potential work environment could be like as far as safety and the ability to social distance. So, ask about it. If a job sounds like it perfectly matches your qualifications, ask what protections they have in the office. Do they require masks? Are there plastic partitions separating desks? You could even ask if they require vaccinations to work at that company. It is important to learn these things now so you can feel confident going forward.
As you can see, it is very possible to network safely during a pandemic. Consider the tips discussed here, and we wish you the best of luck in your new endeavor!
About the Author:
Jori Hamilton is an experienced writer residing in the Northwestern U.S. She covers a wide range of topics but takes a particular interest in covering topics related to business productivity and marketing strategies.