I’m Networking From Home During COVID-19

Empish Working in Home Office

This is International Networking Week

After working many years in the disability non-profit sector, I have learned a lot of professional skills that have elevated my career. I am sure you have heard of a couple of them like:  Don’t send an email out when you are feeling stressed, angry or frustrated because the outcome could be damaging. Or arrive at work and meetings 15 minutes early so that you are ready to go on time. Or keep clear of office gossip and politics. Yet one of the biggest tools in my career toolbox is networking. In today’s workforce, who you know is just as important as what you know. I feel that for people like me who are visually impaired, it is even more essential to network and build strong working relationships that can help lead to career success. As a result, I have been able to maintain my employment over the years primarily through my connections.

this week is International Networking Week and the perfect opportunity to reach out to current contacts and make new ones. You might be wondering how a person with vision loss networks and meets people? The answer is something I had to figure out through a lot of trial and error. Typical networking advice does not always work for those of us who cannot see so I had to add my own little twist to the experience. Now back in the days of BC (Before COVID) When I attended new events, I would contact the coordinator in advance and let them know I had a disability. This gave them a heads up and allowed time to explain I might need some extra help like a sighted guide as an escort to meet people. Other times I would just come to the function, sit down and converse with people who are sitting nearby. I have learned to not be stressed, put a smile on my face and allow the conversation and interaction to flow naturally. I know that some people might feel uncomfortable with interacting with a blind person so I don’t let that ruffle my feathers and I just take things as they come.

Current Methods to Network From Home

Now with the coronavirus still in high numbers, I am continuing to practice social distancing and work from home.  Gone are the days, at least temporarily, when the typical in-person networking included:  small talk, giving elevator pitches, and exchanging numerous business cards. Usually, networking involved attending large events where shaking hands and meeting face-to-face meant you could form a meaningful connection with another person. I have learned this can be accomplished through networking from home and fits perfectly with the fact I am an introvert . The possibilities of learning about a job opening, getting career advice, finding a mentor, meeting a future co-worker or colleague can all be done from the comfort of my house with my internet connection, computer, landline phone  and  adaptive technology . This is all a part of the new normal; yet the key to successful networking is to get to know people, have genuine conversations and add value.

Empish Using a Landline Phone

The bulk of my home networking has been on LinkedIn. Since COVID I have ramped up my interaction a bit more. I have been trying to have more meaningful conversations and not just reply with the standard auto fill responses. I have also been making more comments on the pages of other fellow bloggers that are disabled or who write. Engaging with others that do the same kind of work I do helps build a connection. Lastly, I started attending my college alumni chapter virtual meeting each month. I have only been to a meeting or two but I am hopeful that being consistent will be fruitful and I will meet people there too.

New Methods to Network From Home

Also, I have been putting my network chops to the test in a new way. I signed up for two online courses related to my work. One is a blogging course and the other is for freelance writers. Both of the courses have forums which are new platforms for me and have challenge me in the way I engage with people. I decided to do it because I wanted to meet new people in my field and build relationships. I am optimistic that out of these courses I will meet some folks I can forge a long-lasting connection beyond the lessons so we can get together and talk shop about the writing life. additionally, because of COVID many writer conferences are going virtual this year which is a perfect opportunity for networking. I have never really attended a writer’s conference because of distance and cost yet this year I might do it.

A Network Challenge for You

My challenge to you is this. What one or two things can you do to move your networking forward this week? How will you engage more with your current connections? How will you make new ones in this time of COVID?

8 thoughts on “I’m Networking From Home During COVID-19

  1. Hi Empish,
    As always, I have found your post enlightening! The new online courses you are taking sound fun and informative. Good for you! I could really relate to your in-person networking endeavors. In my upcoming memoir , I have a chapter called “Courage to Network with a White Cane.” I appreciate your comment at how you don’t get your feathers ruffled if / when people feel uncomfortable around someone with vision loss. I was just working through that when Covid hit and I had to take on networking from home. Thanks again for a terrific post!
    Amy

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amy, Thanks for your comment. Yes, we are all having to pivot and make changes with how we conduct business and move in the world. It is hard but not impossible. I am shifting and each day I do a little more work on it. After I take these two classes I am going to do one to help me brush up my LinkedIn profile. I really need to work on that too.

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    2. Hey, Amy, great meeting you here! It’s kind of interesting how both of us honed in on meeting new people while blind. I like Empish’s approach and it’s one I try to convey once I’ve settled into my environment.

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      1. Yep, I have learned to just try and relax and go with the flow. Sometimes when I would go to events I wouldn’t always meet people which could make me feel a little defeated but I realized that going was still good because I was in the room. People would remember me from the previous time and strike up a conversation. You just never know how things will go. Over the years I have met so many interesting people. It has been pretty amazing!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’d really be interest in learning some of your personal tips on how you were able to get out of your comfort zone. I still struggle with this as my natural inclination is to remain in my shell.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yes, it can be hard to do but keep in mind why you are there . Think about what your goal is, breathe and relax. Maybe set a goal to meet at least one new person before you leave the event and refresh a connection with another. Keep it light. I talk about family, weather, what’s on TV, etc. Topics like that help lighten the mood and help me get comfortable and get out of myself and focus on the other person. Then we chat about business, if there is not enough time, I don’t worry about it. I just exchange contact info and follow up.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Another excellent article Empish! As a fellow introvert, I can relate and I love what you had to say about just taking things as they come when meeting people who may feel uncomfortable interacting with a blind person. Some of us get so put off by how others may react to us where if we would just be who we are it could possibly open the door to new relationships.

    Liked by 1 person

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