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Networking for Newcomers in Times of Physical Distancing

Monday | June 8, 2020 | by Paula Calderon

networking and COVID-19

One essential piece of advice for immigrants is to build a network in their new home countries. When you develop professional contacts, socialize with neighbors, and make friends, you begin to absorb cultural information and mutually exchange ideas. Establishing a network will help you feel more comfortable and happier in your new environment. It can keep you from developing feelings of isolation or depression that often accompany major life changes.

However, that’s not as easy to do in 2020. Because of the global pandemic, social distancing (also known as physical distancing) has been introduced to halt the spread of COVID-19.

Usually, networking involves meeting others face-to-face at events organized by professional associations, schools, and libraries. You might meet at work conferences or job fairs. You might meet casually, while taking part in neighborhood activities. Or you can volunteer for organized activities.

However, building a network is now a bigger challenge. But that doesn’t mean that you should stop. You will just have to change the way you think about networking.

This blog post offers some advice for social networking while you’re physical distancing.

Nurture Existing Relationships

Networking has changed, but relationship-building is more critical than ever. While you’re in isolation, it’s a good time to reach out to your old connections and strengthen existing communication channels.

It is also the perfect time to think about what relationships in your life need to be reactivated. Reach out to people that you might have lost touch with as you got settled in your new country and your new life.

For example, you can send an article that may be of interest to them or ask how their families are doing. Making an effort goes a long way in this time of self-isolation. Right now, the first goal is to nurture and reengage your connections.

Practice Your Networking Skills

Networking can be stressful for everyone. It requires concentration, effort, and emotional vulnerability. This can be especially difficult for newcomers. Engaging with strangers can be intimidating, but it can also be deeply rewarding as your social circle expands. Plus, developing lasting professional relationships is essential to achieve career success in the U.S. or Canada.

Here are a few tips to improve your networking skills from the comfort of your home:

  • Before connecting with people, understand what you want out of a contact.
  • Practice networking with an acquaintance who you already know, but might not know very well.
  • Work on your language skills to eliminate any miscommunications and grow your proficiency.
  • Do some research on the person you want to connect with. You will feel more prepared.
  • Assemble a short list of questions for the person you are trying to connect with.
  • Take a deep breath. Start a conversation.

Connect with Potential Mentors

Mentors can help you take your career to the next level and expand your social network. If you’re working from home or practicing isolation, it might be the perfect time to start looking for a mentor.

Of course, reaching out to a potential mentor can be intimidating. You should remember that a good mentor will have experience with starting this conversation and can help make it easier for you.

Mentors can help newcomers develop interpersonal skills, find career opportunities, provide advice about specific challenges, and exchange useful information. They can also help you meet new people and grow your contacts.

The easiest way to find a mentor is to identify someone you admire and respect. You can always ask them to become your mentor directly; however, a better approach might be to learn more about what they do, offer your help, and ask for meetings to get to know each other. Take it slow and make sure there is interest and that it will be beneficial for both of you. Mentorship is a two-way street.

Another route is to go through a mentorship program. Mentorship programs connect mentors and mentees. Mentors are established professionals with specific skills and knowledge that can be beneficial to the mentees. There are several services that are specifically designed to connect new immigrants with mentors who can guide them through the settlement process and help them find connections in their career field.

It is also useful to connect with mentors who share your professional background. That way, they can connect you with specific people and opportunities. They can help you understand the local labor market and industry trends, while also developing successful job search strategies. Eventually, they might be able to connect you with hiring managers or job openings in your field.

Expand Your Network Remotely

Not being able to meet face to face does not need to impede networking. The best and easiest way to continue right now is by making the most of technology.

Here are some ideas:

  • Maintain an active presence online. Let people know how you’re doing and what you’re working on.
  • Stay engaged with your friends. For example: Reshare their online webinars or articles.
  • Reach out to your connections to let them know you are thinking about them.
  • Teach your contacts how to use tools like Zoom, which will help you stay connected with them remotely. It certainly helps if everyone in your circle is familiar with the same apps and tools.
  • Share advice that can be helpful to others: for example, guides for managing finances.
  • Join social media groups that are aligned with your interests and engage with the community.
  • Send requests to connect on LinkedIn. Join groups and seek contacts with whom you share a common interest or professional goal.

In Conclusion

Networking is an essential part of getting settled in a new country. And the global pandemic makes it even harder to take advantage of traditional networking opportunities. But physical distancing is not the same thing as social distancing; there are plenty of ways to connect with people remotely and remain social even if you’re keeping a safe distance.

Get creative in your efforts, but don’t stop reaching out to old acquaintances or trying to meet new people. This is critical to move forward as a newcomer who is attempting to build friendships and advance professionally in North America.

Related Reading

E-Guide: Professional Development Strategies

Networking Tips for Immigrants

Paula Calderon is the National Director, Client Success at Windmill Microlending.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of World Education Services (WES).