I’ve always loathed networking. Here’s why a virtual format makes it bearable

p 1 ive always loathed networking heres why a virtual format makes it bearable

I’ve a confession to make. Since school, I’ve been retaining a record.

It began with a few dozen names scrawled on a piece of paper: mates, colleagues, and professors I wished to be in contact with. I carried that crumpled piece of paper with me for years, including names every time I met somebody who caught my curiosity. Just a few a long time later, that record has since migrated to the notes part of my telephone, the place it continues to develop. Throughout a yr stuffed with lockdown and distant working, it’s proved extra helpful than ever.

Whereas a lot of individuals have been compelled to pivot their networking on-line this previous yr, I’ve been doing this for many years. Scaling startups from one metropolis to a different, I’ve discovered how important it is to foster connections throughout occasions when you possibly can’t be bodily current.


With a remote-first future awaiting many people, this potential to community at a distance is arguably extra essential than ever. Listed below are a few hard-won classes from a lifelong distant networker, together with crucial of all: Don’t contemplate it networking.

I’ve discovered how important it is to foster connections throughout occasions when you possibly can’t be bodily current.

Let go of the ROI mindset

I don’t like networking for the sake of getting one thing from somebody. A study performed by the College of Toronto, Harvard, and Northwestern discovered that folks felt bodily soiled when it got here to “calculated” networking, which was perceived as inherently egocentric.

It doesn’t need to be that approach, even in a distant context. Gross sales guru and writer Zig Ziglar penned some of the well-known quotes on networking when he mentioned, “you may get all the things you need in life if you’ll simply assist different individuals get what they need.”

To me, the secret is beginning off on the appropriate foot; a lasting relationship is rooted in easy curiosity and discovering frequent floor, not a quid professional quo. And somewhat than fixating on distinction, hold an open thoughts to search out a level of connection.

Again in pre-pandemic occasions, I as soon as had a new consumer choose me up for lunch in a rusty clunker with a gap within the flooring by my toes. I used to be prepared to put in writing him off till we bought onto the topic of investing, seems he was an early investor in Microsoft, who turned $2,000 into a fortune. I instructed myself to by no means prejudge somebody once more, and we stayed in touch for years.

Play calendar Whac-A-Mole

One other key: in networking conditions, somebody always must play the function of “connector.” Put your pleasure apart and be that particular person, somewhat than anticipating another person to provoke. Efficient networking not often simply occurs; it requires a plan and the drive to stay with it.


Take that record I began so a few years in the past. Compiling it was one factor, however I additionally made a level of working it. For instance, every New 12 months I’d slip into my contacts and ship a easy message to previous mates, former colleagues, or future coworkers.

Discovering methods to prioritize your community, even whenever you’re busy, is essential. London Enterprise Faculty organizational habits professor Herminia Ibarra might have mentioned it greatest, “networking is a lot like vitamin and health: we all know what to do, the arduous half is making it a high precedence.”

Today, I’ll have a look at my calendar firstly of every week and seek for a random empty slot or two I can fill by spending time with individuals I haven’t seen in a whereas. Earlier than the pandemic, my rule was to by no means eat alone. Previously yr, nonetheless, it’s been extra telephone calls and Zoom chats. However being deliberate about sustaining actual relationships works. A study by Cornell University examined 165 attorneys, and located their degree of success was linked to their angle in direction of networking. The extra emphasis they positioned on creating and sustaining relationships, the extra billable hours they raked in.

Rethink social media 

COVID-19 has positively taken a reduce out of in-person networking, however for all its disruptions, the pandemic has additionally highlighted the virtues of a digital-first method. Video chat may be a networking boon. Although not fairly the identical as “being there,” it’s far quicker than touring for meetups, and much more intimate than a easy telephone name. The explosion of Zoom in the course of the pandemic has put me face-to-face with individuals I’ve talked with frequently, however by no means truly seen earlier than.

In the meantime, actual networking nonetheless can and does occur on social media. However the secret is consistency and engagement. Even on busy days, I begin every morning with a 15-minute scroll by my platforms, retaining a watch out for tactics I can let individuals know I’m pondering of them. You could get up and see that I’ve appreciated a dozen of your Instagram photos: what my mates jokingly name a “Steve bomb” is my approach of catching up.

COVID-19 has altered how we have a look at networking. However let’s face it—the world was a digital house lengthy earlier than the pandemic, and the basics at play stay unchanged. Constructing a lasting connection nonetheless comes right down to the spark of human connection.

Be beneficiant. Be curious. Be intentional. The trouble you place into your community will discover its approach again to you. Whereas a few of us might return to some semblance of regular work life quickly, distant work will likely be an more and more central a part of our future. Honing the abilities to construct and maintain a community at a distance now will solely pay dividends within the years forward.

Steve Johnson is the president of Berkshire Grey, which builds AI-powered robotic methods to assist retailers, e-commerce firms, and logistics suppliers.