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Coronavirus Preparedness At Lighthouse

Five Strategies for Building Relationships Remotely

By Nikki MacCallum

When the United States coronavirus lockdowns happened in March of 2020, I don’t know that anyone anticipated working remotely for the rest of the year. I certainly didn’t. Based on how other countries had faired it was looking like weeks or months. Many of us non-essential workers are currently going into month five of working remotely and it’s starting to become clear that adjustments need to be made in order to make a remote environment sustainable longer term.

Networking is a daunting concept for many when the world isn’t in the midst of a pandemic. Everyone faces different levels of social anxiety and has different levels of comfort interacting with others. However, in today’s environment the additional challenge has become: How will I meet people or build relationships from home? Below are five strategies for continuing to foster and build relationships remotely.

  1. Revisit your former network. “Start with the known and it will lead you to the unknown,” is one of the most valuable pieces of business advice I’ve ever received. Often times, people don’t realize they have significant untapped contacts already in their orbits. And attached to every individual you’re already in contact with, is their web of connections. More often than not, people have contacts they didn’t even realize they had for a variety of reasons. Perhaps it’s someone you forgot about because they weren’t relevant at the time, or maybe they had a side venture you weren’t aware of. Alternatively, maybe they’ve changed jobs in the last several years since you’ve spoken, putting them in contact with a different silo of business. One of the best ways to continue to build your network during a remote environment is to revisit former contacts. Pick one person a week with whom you’ve haven’t spoken in over a year and drop them a note to see if they’d be interested in reconnecting.
  2. Quality over quantity. This mantra is more relevant than ever in a predominantly virtual world as it is more difficult to stand out. The United States unemployment rate is currently 11.1% and since the beginning of the year businesses across the board have taken massive financial hits. As a result, many individuals are acting recklessly in an attempt to get business. I’ve received more mass emails from third-party vendors in the last three months than I have from my entire time at Lighthouse. When revenue numbers fall, people often fall into the volume mental trap. In a climate where everyone is attempting to do volume, that far outreach will not serve you. I’m willing to bet you’d get more professional opportunities by doing one high-quality outreach per week, than sending a mass email to your entire LinkedIn network.
  3. Be efficient and self-aware. Given that we’ve been in and out of various stages of quarantine and or isolation, it often becomes apparent in business conversations. Despite everyone being remote, people are suffering tremendous levels of fatigue and are having to balance their lives in ways they’ve never had to before. Efficiency is more important than ever. On the whole, I’ve noticed individuals talking more during interviews and in many cases giving less succinct answers. We are all a little rusty in terms of our levels of social interaction, and it is critical that you continue to read the room and make sure you’re listening just as much as you’re talking. Listening to someone or asking them a question is probably one of the greatest gifts you could give right now. Less talking and more listening.
  4. Continue to add value. While you may not be able to take a client to lunch or send tickets to a baseball game, you can still find ways to add value in a social sense. In today’s climate, you can add value by simply picking up the phone. Information sharing and making connections are also two great ways to add value. If you see an article that might be relevant to someone you know, send it to them. If you have a connection who might be able to help a contact of yours where you are coming up short, initiate making the introduction. Having a hand in recruiting essentially my entire career, people are constantly asking me for job opportunities. And I truly want to help everyone I can. But if all someone ever does is reach out to ask me for things, I notice.  And to reiterate, there is nothing wrong with asking for things. We should all be so bold as to ask for things! But just make sure you’re also offering up something. Try to be of service wherever you can, because one day you may need something. I will drop what I’m doing to help someone who has interacted with me in a meaningful way in the past. Set yourself up for success down the road so when you do have an ask, you will have already added value.
  5. Promote yourself on social media. As terrifying as this sounds, it is one of the best ways to stay top of mind, especially in a virtual working environment. Whether it’s reposting articles on LinkedIn, starting a podcast, or commenting on other people’s posts on a social media platform, the more visible your name is, the more you will be top of mind. It’s also more important than ever to have a strong LinkedIn photo. Given that people don’t have the opportunity to meet in person right now, the more visual your communication, the better. Over the past few months, I’ve also seen a trend of more photos on resumes and in email signatures. While at one point in time that may have been considered overkill, it is now starting to be appreciated and seen as promoting connectivity.

Above all, it’s important to remember we are all in the same boat. Everyone is in search of job security and everyone has experienced some sort of loss, even if it is the ability to go into an office. It is helpful to have compassion because, ultimately, that is how you build and grow relationships. Very little can go a long way to make someone’s day right now. And making someone’s day could be the key to leveraging that connection down the road.

If you have questions about this blog article or want to chat about the concept further, please feel free to reach out to me at NMacCallum@lighthouseglobal.com.

Nikki MacCallum

Nikki MacCallum brings over thirteen years of experience in the executive search space with a focus on litigation technology and eDiscovery. She’s spoken on panels and at conferences nation-wide (ABC News, Women in eDiscovery, LegalTech, CALSM, ARIAS) and was recently the key note speaker for a global Career Panel Workshop at American Express. Nikki is also a resident speaker at New York City’s Coalition for the Homeless where she privately mentors underprivileged women looking to re-enter the workforce.

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