My love for stories makes me a natural networker. I thrive on people’s energy and this is one thing that keeps me going. I love my daily interactions with my colleagues, clients and peers and you can imagine how difficult it is to go through my day in its absence. Do you find yourself struggling in this prolonged isolation like I did? Luckily, I found that it doesn’t have to be difficult at all. If you’re a people’s person or in a people-facing business/profession, here are a few things I’ve discovered that may hopefully help you too.

Everything we do right now — from sending emails to making calls to sending texts – is more important than ever. How we make people feel now is going to linger longer than these turbulent times. Let me use a personal example here to show you what I mean. I have a taken a Home Loan and I pay monthly EMIs towards it. A while ago I got a call from one of the company executive who thanked me for making payments on time and also mentioned that the interest rate I pay to their company is on the higher side compared to some other banks. She suggested, post-lockdown I should consider enquiring in the market for a better rate for myself. Pleasantly surprised, I asked her if her company and superiors are aware of this call and suggestion, to which she said it was their management’s idea to educate their clients. Now it is a different matter if I transfer my loan to another bank at a later stage or not, but I do not think I will forget this gesture.

Make goodwill calls not sales calls, people will remember it for a long time

Use LinkedIn well –I can’t stress this enough. We must all update it thoroughly. I recently saw a very nicely formatted ad by a client that said “We are building enviable LinkedIn for our clients”. I thought it was a smart idea and since I am a communication expert and I found I had some spare time on hand these days, I decided to do it for myself. I can’t really put down in figures but I have seen a spike in new contacts, and I even managed to get a new project for the company solely by networking here.

Jump onto the Webinar bandwagon –I know the whole world is tired of hearing about webinars, FB and Insta Lives but there is no right or wrong in this time. It will help you connect with your customers and lots of relevant people. Some you will continue to stay in touch with long after! Trust me on this and thank me later. I have a buzzing new entrepreneur group and some are slowly becoming a part of my social group too. Not only that, I’m learning new things as well. For example, we partnered with an organisation and together started a series. This helped me understand how webinars work and how a moderator writes the entire script. So there’s always something new to learn if you take these new experiences in your stride.

Approach new contacts-The networking mistake most people make, is gravitating toward “connecting to what’s comfortable for us, validating our own views, and confirming what we already know.” You need people who can be sounding boards for your ideas and plans, and who will challenge your thinking and question your assumptions. Without a wide variety of points of view, it’s too easy to get stuck in ‘silo thinking,’ where everyone in your network sees things the same way you do. That drastically limits what you can learn—and how far you can go.

Many people, especially (but not only) women, decide not to approach someone whose work they admire—by sending a request to connect on LinkedIn, for example—out of fear of rejection, or simply from a reluctance to impose on the other person’s time and attention. But if you send a request with a thoughtful note, ideally one that briefly asks for advice on a specific business issue or situation, most people are receptive.

There is nothing wrong or right here, we all are learning and people are more open to new ways of communication, so use it.

 Go beyond business and build a close network –

There is no right or wrong way to build a close network. Start with a large group, pay attention and proceed with care, and like they say – you will find your niche. I was a member of over eight WhatsApp social groups (people took permission before adding me) and I observed long enough to see the ones that made sense to me. I continued with only two. One has to be clear of the purpose a group will serve.

My friend introduced me to a women’s networking group when I initially started my business. I joined hesitantly because I was wary of catfights and silent wars. This group however has changed my perception; women in this group are extremely helpful, laud you on your success, lift your spirit up and are forever ready for celebration.

Be clear with your expectations and the purpose a group will serve

 My Instagram was strictly for my pictures and my thoughts. I have a slightly wry sense of humor and I am very mindful of that especially in the workplace but, since Instagram is my space, I experimented and to my surprise I have people coming and appreciating my stories and saying how they wait for new posts from me. It has become my happy place. I have observed how my personality has evolved and I no longer feel that I need validation.

So, while you do some of these don’t get lost in the virtual world. Divide your time sensibly. Get that sunshine and exercise. Use free platforms, be responsible, pay attention and proceed with care. Happy Networking and learning!