How to Return to Networking (Even if You're not Feeling it)

We’ve been hearing from coworkers and from the greater creative community that networking during the pandemic was either rough or nonexistent. Let’s look at the ways your networking skills might have been impacted and how you can do something about it, even if you’ve become more introverted.

The Pandemic and its impacts on networking

The lockdown and subsequent waves of COVID outbreaks caused us to cancel meet-ups, conventions, and so many social events that were crucial to networking pre-pandemic. The unfortunate thing is that we’ve seen many work-related conventions and meet-ups not return since the lockdown. You might notice fewer in-person events scheduled, replaced by virtual meet-ups that many just find too boring, impersonal, or tiring to attend. We already spend most of our days on screens, tiring our eyes, and in need of frequent breaks—not a recipe for a fun virtual happy hour if you ask us. So it’s no wonder we’ve had little to no networking time, let alone the desire to network. 

Social media and its impacts on networking

As many mental health experts have pointed out, we’re still feeling the effects of the isolation from the Pandemic. They also found that, while social media was used to connect to others, it distorted our understanding of ourselves in relation to others. The longer time we spend in our feeds without really speaking to others, the more we are drawn to making illogical comparisons, increasing our social anxiety and search for perfectionism as a result. Not good! These negative effects of too much scrolling without human contact perpetuate a cycle of isolation.   

So—what changes can we make for meaningful networking to happen?

If we are going to make a return to networking, we’ll have to conquer social anxieties, cancel comparison mindsets and do away with perfection altogether. Easier said than done, right? But here are a few places to start:

  1. Start with your close favorite people

    If you’re really out of your co-worker loop, start with a text, group text, or email. Get together once in a while with a few people that you feel most comfortable with. Strategize and mood board together—what do you each want? How can you help each other? How can you broaden your network together in a way that feels safe?

  2. Meet in person when you’re ready

    So you see that there will be an in-person meet-up for a group you want to join, like figure drawing at the Society of Illustrators, an AIGA event, or bringing work to a local writer’s salon. Write their event dates on your calendar and try to attend at least one. Bring a friend if you are extra scared, but whatever you do, don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t make it. There will always be another chance on a day that feels better. Eventually, you’ll make it there. After that comes more opportunities to make connections in person at these events.

  3. Cold email strangers (and repeat)

    Put on your humble and professional face and email the people you want to work with. This is the scariest thing to do, but it puts you directly on the radar of the power players in your industry. All you have to remember is to take one step. Start by emailing the person who feels the least threatening. Even if you don’t hear back, reach out again in the future with news or ideas you have for working together. Truly, what’s the worst thing that’s going to happen? They’ll see your email and delete it? Rejection is tough, but it’s not the same as failure. Rejection simply means “not now”. So keep reaching out until you get a positive response from someone on your list. 

Things to remember:
  • Don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself to network.
    If you don’t feel like cold emailing strangers this week, just stick to your comfort zone. There’s always next week or next month once you’ve bolstered your social skills amongst friends.

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for introductions
    If you see an in but are too shy to reach out yourself, lean on your friends. Maybe they even take you both out for coffee for a 3-person meet-up.

  • Keep trying things that scare you
    You’ll gain confidence once you see that the negative story you told yourself about that party wasn’t true, or that the CEO wasn’t a mean scary person after all in their email response.

If you’re looking for another way to network with companies you want to work with, reach out to us at Artisan! Our recruiters want to work with a talented person like yourself and help you find your next great gig.

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