For so many of us, the idea of “social-distancing” or “self-quarantine” is so foreign that it sounds like something out of a horror film or the twilight zone. We even have a new acronym, WFH (work from home), that has become part of this week’s new vernacular. I can tell you, these are not expressions I have ever used or even heard of in my life. And, whether you deem yourself an introvert or an extrovert, nobody enjoys isolation or feeling disconnected from the world.
In this time of uncertainty, when we are being encouraged (err… ordered?) to temporarily shutter our businesses, postpone events, keep at least three feet apart, and stay home, there must be a way to maintain connections and connectedness to one another.
As we have read or heard from so many organizations, this situation is “fluid” and constantly changing. And, while I’m learning with you as we go, I have given a little thought to how we might nurture our relationships while being sequestered as a result of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.
What follows are my top five tips for networking in place:
- Check In. I am lucky to be part of a quartet of women with whom I went to college. They are truly my soul sisters and, though we don’t talk that frequently, when we do, it’s like no time has passed between interactions. This past weekend, just as her city was being placed on a three-week mandatory shelter, one of the gals, Rahela, texted this to our group, “I hope you and your loved ones are all safe and healthy. Let’s be sure to stay connected during this uncertain and very stressful time. I love you all to pieces.” It made me feel well cared for and less alone. You know where I’m going with this: A little outreach goes a long way. My advice: Let people you care about know that you care. Assume that they are feeling the same sense of anxiety, confusion, chaos, loneliness, loss, and anger that you are. Check-in just to make sure they are OK. It will make you feel better, too. Use the tools you have at your disposal to do so: Social media, text messaging, email, and the good ole telephone. Speaking of which…
- Coffee by Call. Not long ago, before all this Corona Mania began, my friend, Michelle, invited me for a virtual cup of tea one Sunday morning. Leveraging Zoom so we could utilize the video feature, we talked for an hour – we could’ve visited for longer, but neither of us had the time to spare. Now, I missed giving her a big hug and seeing her in person, but we had a wonderful conversation, got in our requisite caffeine and went about our days. So, why not invite a friend or two to meet you by phone or via some online conferencing technology that allows you to see one another? Together, you can enjoy a virtual cup ‘o Joe (or a glass of wine?) and connect away – no virus can stop you!
- Offer to Help. After hearing about the lines out the door and around the block at Walmart and Costco with consumers buying up all the toilet paper (just to be clear, I’m no doctor, but COVID-19 is a respiratory virus, not an intestinal malady) and Purell they could get their hands on, I was heartened to learn about some of the ways we are showing one another kindness in the face of the apocalypse. Countless people have posted messages on Facebook offering to pick up groceries and other essentials for those who are in quarantine. Others are encouraging school kids to write letters, create Tik Toks or send emails to residents in senior living facilities. Still more people are purchasing gift cards from mom ’n’ pop retail shops and cafés that are suffering from a lack of consumers to help them stay afloat during this strange time. A bank that I know of is proactively calling its small business customers to make additional funds available in their lines of credit to serve as a bridge until they can beef up their revenue again. You have something to offer, too. I can’t tell you what that is, but you know. The more generous you are with your time, information and resources, the so much more you will receive in return. Don’t do it because you have to; do it because you want to.
- Reconnect. Hey, you don’t have anywhere to be… neither do they. Think of at least one person you have wanted to reconnect with and reach out to. It could be a long lost friend from childhood… it could be your dear old Aunt Sally who you haven’t seen in 100 years… could be a business prospect who you’ve been meaning to follow up with. Send her a quick note. See if she’s interested in a call to touch base. They will be glad to hear from you. You’ll be glad you reached out. Something good will come of it for you both.
- Collaborate. Today, I received a very touching note via Facebook from a colleague in Tennessee, Steve, who’s business is structured similarly to my own. He said this, “Alana, how are you doing with all this disruption? Anything I can do to help you?” Ah, those magical words! “Anything I can do to help you?” (See Tip #3 above!) Steve doesn’t owe me anything. There is nothing in it for him. He’s just a good person. We’ve collaborated before; now’s a great time to do so again. After corresponding back and forth, I learned that his business, like mine, will take a hit this year as a result of the public health crisis. We brainstormed ways to stay active and on top of our respective games. It was fun and beneficial for us both. So, I suggest you get creative. Explore new business ideas. Do something you’ve been putting off. Write a review for someone’s product. Keep active. Laugh out loud. Do all of these things in concert with others. Your collaboration – even across the miles and airwaves – will keep you connected.
And, if all else fails, simply take time to refresh your LinkedIn profile. It will give you something productive to do when it comes to bolstering your networking prowess.
Bottom line: We’ve been dealt a global bag of lemons. Let’s make lemonade! Now’s the time to get focused. Now’s the time to do a better job of connecting with others. No excuses. Let’s connect! But, first…
Wash your hands. Stay healthy. Happy Networking!