The Current Times: How the Pandemic Has Affected Job Networking

StrategyDriven Practices for Professionals Article |Job Networking|The Current Times: How the Pandemic Has Affected Job NetworkingNot all that long ago, networking was a fairly simple process. People actually connected with one another over lunches, coffee breaks, and even in line at the supermarket. Seemingly random conversations would often veer toward career choices and job opportunities. From there, contact information would be exchanged, and further connections would ensue. Just a couple of decades ago, stopping by a prospective place of employment could help propel your career to new heights. Doing so gave people an opportunity to drop off their resumes, shake hands with some of the right people, and get their names out there.

Entering a New Era

Then, the digital world rose to fame, and the internet began to take over. From there, showing up in person would get you little more than a cold stare and curt instructions to fill out an application online and email your resume to the proper department. Though the internet technically gave people more reach, it also put a damper on their ability to truly connect with potential employers on a personal and professional level. All that happened long before anyone had even heard of COVID-19, but once the pandemic began to take shape, matters became even more distant, and Virtual Business Networking became all the more crucial.

Facing Even More Twists and Turns

While the pandemic didn’t kickstart the trend away from in-person networking by any means, it certainly took it to entirely new levels. Suddenly, face-to-face networking wasn’t only considered a less efficient approach; it was altogether forbidden. In fact, it was downright dangerous. Meeting with other people in a small space went from being the way to go to a potentially deadly experience. Spreading a hazardous pathogen isn’t exactly a great way to foster a career, and shelter-in-place ordinances and other restrictions made traditional networking all but impossible. Changes had to be made, and they’re affecting job networking even now that the pandemic appears to be winding down.

The Concept of Face-to-Face Is Evolving

Emails and online chats quickly became the norm even before the pandemic began to spread across the globe. Despite the evolution of technology over the last few decades, many potential employers, job candidates, and other networkers alike continued to feel that phone calls were a much better way to connect with others than one-dimensional messages. Whether they were one-on-one conversations or conference calls, they helped get things done.

Of course, phone calls weren’t the only options available. Video chats were rapidly growing and improving. They allowed people an extra layer of communication and connection. Written words and vocal tones account for something, but hand gestures and facial expressions can certainly add a great deal to a conversation whether you’re connecting with like-minded individuals or participating in a job interview.

Although many of the dangers and restrictions of the pandemic are fading, video conferences have become the new norm. They’re expected to remain the communication outlets of choice moving forward as well. Emails, text-based chats, and phone calls aren’t going away, but they’re certainly being eclipsed by video chats.

Opening the Lines of Communication Has Changed

Before the pandemic, getting straight to the point during networking efforts was acceptable. It was even expected. Why waste time making idle chit-chat when there was business to discuss? That has changed at this point as well. In light of all the physical, financial, and emotional hardships the pandemic has brought about, genuine concern for fellow human beings has become fashionable once again.

Just a couple of years ago, it would’ve been fine to start off a networking conversation with, “Hi, have you given any thought to the connections I asked you about the other day?” Now, that’s not necessarily the case. People have far more to worry about than the connections you asked them for a few days ago. Some have lost their jobs whereas others are struggling to adjust to working from home while also taking care of their children, houses, and other matters. Some are even recovering from the virus or coping with the loss of a loved one because of it.

Instead of focusing solely on your goals and what your network can do for you, broaden the horizons a bit. Make an effort to be a resource for others. Offer connections, advice, and other helpful amenities for those who are in your network. Stress, fear, worry, anxiety, and all the physical issues that can come with them are at all-time highs right now. Showing that you care for fellow networkers can go a long way. You can proceed to cover your own concerns at some point during the conversation, but put others first.

Job Searches Are More Dynamic

While there’s no denying that the pandemic has changed networking, it has also altered the job market itself. Some companies are slowly transitioning back to their pre-pandemic on-site operations whereas others have decided to keep functioning remotely. Many businesses are undergoing internal changes to foster productivity, efficiency, communication, and other important elements. All that has led to a complete turnaround in the way those businesses operate and conduct their hiring processes. Some companies may even be creating new positions to add to their staff and getting rid of those that are no longer relevant.

For job seekers, that means taking an entirely different approach to reaching out to prospective employers. It may also mean modifying the types of jobs you’re interested in and applying for. At the same time, it could require making certain changes to your network. With all those transitions taking place in the job market and workplace, it’s important to adjust your networking accordingly.

Bottom Line

For quite some time now, networking and the job market itself have been evolving. Many of the changes began to take shape a couple of decades ago and have simply been progressing over the years. While the pandemic didn’t cause those changes, it certainly sped them up and gave them a more specific direction. Jobs are out there waiting for the right candidates to fill them, but finding them is the key. Modifying your approach to networking can help you make the connections you need to do just that.

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