We are currently living through a pandemic that has draped the world in panic, uncertainty and, most importantly, social distancing. In a span of three months, the novel coronavirus outbreak has sent us into an unprecedented lockdown, limiting our ability to stay connected to others. With life now at a standstill, we suddenly find ourselves in a world with no handshakes, no visiting cards and no face-to-face meetings. But companies, professionals, and job-seekers still need to connect with others, in fact, more so than before. In the past few weeks, we have seen the professional community rally for each other on LinkedIn; entrepreneurs and heads of businesses coming together to offer tips, best practices, business pivot ideas, moral support—in short—to help each other navigate the crisis in any way possible.
Right before Covid-19 shifted the world into low gear, LinkedIn commissioned a survey, the ‘LinkedIn Opportunity Index’, which helped us understand how people across the world perceived “opportunity” and barriers that stopped them from achieving these opportunities. Findings of the report stated that 88 percent of Indians believe that knowing the right people is important to get ahead in life. This is an incredible insight into what we as a nation think strong networking can enable. However, despite this fact, only 13 percent of the nation is working towards building and nurturing their professional network.
The data also tells us that people with stronger networks are more confident to overcome barriers as compared to those with weaker networks—an insight that can prove to be empowering for companies and professionals to help navigate this global crisis.
But in this world of social distancing, how will professionals make the right connections, and continue to grow their network? The new Work From Home world has given rise to 'contactless networking'—to network virtually, remotely from home, and with a clear purpose of improving connectedness.
Stay in, but go out of your way
As Covid-19 continues to spread fear and uncertainty across the world, it is crucial for businesses to stay visible and connected. Networking in these times means to be a helpful partner to your clients and customers. This will help build real connections with their customers, and show that you truly care and value the relationship. Work may have slowed down, but It’s important to continue to catch-up even without reason, to check on their mental health, concerns, and anxieties they may be feeling at this time.
Be reliable, and share insights and information across your digital identity. This will empower your customers to make well-informed, high-impact decisions that can contribute to overall industry growth. Now is the best time to root yourself as a credible entity so you earn the trust of people and build newer connections that could result in new opportunities. This transparency can result in healthy, widespread community engagement within your personal connections as well as professional network.
Regular online meetings, casual catch-ups, virtual events and webinars can be a good way to continue to provide desirable service and counsel at a regular cadence. Tools like LinkedIn Live enable organisations to broadcast information with company followers on the platform, and nurture a real-time sense of networking among diverse business communities.
To gain and keep a customer’s trust, it is important for you to connect with others authentically at this time. Signal your brand values and build thought leadership across your digital presence through long-form posts, videos, and maintain healthy dialogue with your connections on relevant topics.
Networks, like opportunities, are not distributed equally
But in reality, networks, like opportunities, are not distributed evenly. This is what we call the 'network gap'. The LinkedIn Opportunity Index global data tells us that where you grow up, where you go to school, and where you work can give you a 12x advantage in gaining access to opportunity.
In India, Bengaluru, Mumbai and Delhi NCR are the top three regions in India where people are believed to have stronger networks. In fact, people living in metro areas are 1.76x more likely to have a stronger network than those living in non-metro areas. This disparity in access to strong networks also depends on where you go to school, seeing that people who attend a top university are 1.53x more likely to grow a stronger network.
Take this opportunity to reach out to your networks, either to give help or get help. Many of your connections may have the answers or opportunities you’re looking for. If you are in a position to support others, connect them to people who you know can help, because helping your connections connect with others is a step forward in closing this network gap, especially in this moment of crisis.
The world is changing as we know it. With shifting priorities, evolving aspirations and rapid digitalisation all swimming in the same lane, everyone must now realise that in the present times, you need to have the right tools to build the right connections. And if a powerful network has always been your north star, now is your chance to engage, upskill, and adapt—all through the power of digital.
The writer is LinkedIn's India Country Manager