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The pandemic has dealt a blow to our networks, sending us scrambling for ways to maintain and rebuild our relationships. Online communication has provided a partial solution. Keeping our social networks alive requires a conscious effort on our part, however, more so than ever before.

“It’s not what you know or who you know, but who knows you.”- Susan RoAne.  

Social networking is a basic human skill. We all do it. The only question is how successful we are at it.

In addition to being a basic human social competence, networking powers organizations, leadership teams, and, to a significant degree, progress in general. The ongoing pandemic has strained our networks and, in many cases, caused them to shrink.

Our personal and professional networks consist of all the people we know.

Successful social networking is imperative for professional survival and success. We should all build up strong networks before we need to use them. The problem is that the COVID-19 pandemic has posed an unprecedented challenge to our networking.

How Business and Professional Networking Has Changed

On its most basic level, human social networking consists of face-to-face interaction. Phone conversations represent an evolutionary iteration of the skill. And now, as online communication mercilessly encroaches on face-to-face interaction within many organizations, it is time to take it one step further.

Taking Networking Online

A quick move toward online communication platforms like Zoom, Skype, and Microsoft Teams was the kneejerk response of the corporate world to social distancing.

While some may find online communication somewhat cold and less genuine than face-to-face interaction, it has been a reasonable solution to the social distancing conundrum thus far.

From the perspective of leadership coaching, online communication has been a boon. It has allowed coaches to connect with their clients and continue building their networks despite the adversities of the pandemic.

Beyond leadership coaching, online communication has successfully brought people together on the professional and personal levels as well. The pandemic has forced us to discover the true value of this tool that has been available for a while. With inhibitions sidelined by necessity, online communication has opened up new frontiers for networking.

The Pandemic Has Shrunk Our Networks

Our social networks go through a continuous churn. We lose some friends and acquaintances, but we strike up new relationships to replace them. Due to the pandemic, we have stopped or slowed down acquiring new contacts while the attrition accelerated.

In response to the adversities and social strain of the pandemic, we have chosen to “turtle up.” We have strengthened our closest relationships while letting our looser but larger circle of acquaintances shrink. According to a recent study, on average, each of us lost around 200 connections from our networks. Those 200 people amount to 16 percent of our social circles. That is part of the human cost of the pandemic.

Men’s Networks Shrank More than Women’s

The same study points out that men account for the lion’s share of social network shrinkage.

Men’s social networks shrank by close to 30 percent, while women’s barely did.

The explanation is in the way we socialize. Women are verbal communicators. They talk things over. And keeping verbal communication alive through phone calls or social media channels turned out to be relatively easy.

Men, on the other hand, socialize by doing things together. And getting together for activities such as playing sports, fishing, or building a shed has become impossible under the lockdown.

Men socialize by doing things together. 

How Can You Keep Your Social Network Alive?

Redefine the importance of human relationships in your life. You know many people whose acquaintance you fail to appraise properly. Your barber, your dentist, and your mechanic have networks of their own. And their social reach is wider than you think.

If you talk to people, you may quickly discover opportunities where you thought none existed. Tell people about your career goals. Let them know what interests and excites you.

Reaffirm the core values that define who you are. Keeping your values in mind can help you overcome your urges to withdraw and shrink your outer social circle.

Be proactive about reconnecting with people. Overcome your fear of awkwardness and reach out. Lending a hand, saying thank you, or asking someone for help can rekindle cold relationships.

Networking doesn’t just make it easier to look for a job. It is critical for boosting your creativity, problem-solving abilities, and overall wellbeing.

Pick up my books to learn more about how executive coaching helps leaders navigate the challenges of networking.

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