Offline Networking in the Digital Age
Zurich

With Five Pandemic Proven Methods for Connection

Modern society has evolved in many regards, especially in how we interact with each other. A significant amount of these interactions now happen in digital social spaces than real ones. One excuse I get a lot these days is that you can’t “network” because it’s very difficult to meet other people in person, especially people you don’t know.

Digital spaces are revolutionary and have brought people at great distances together but if you are like me you probably feel entirely ready to leave the house and meet a stranger in person. I have started to chat a bit longer with the bakery lady and the guy who fixes my doner kebab. It’s weird but necessary because human interaction has become so scarce and I also feel that we all deserve a bit more love these days. Don’t get me wrong: I’m generally not a very chatty person unless I’ve known someone for a long time. I rather keep a “professional” interaction short and this might come across as arrogance to some. 

However, over the last year I changed my attitude a lot. The pandemic has made me realize how little I often connect with people in business as in good German style I still separate business and pleasure, colleagues and friends. If you have listened to my workshops about the importance of building relationship you probably wonder how I can hold up this paradox. 

My answer is simple: It’s a deeper level of trust that I share with the friends and more personal connections. I also don’t hold back whereas in a professional environment I would probably not use certain expressions. Today it’s all a bit more blurred because I speak to everyone from my living room. I feel like I let everyone into my personal space, hence they must be able to handle the more authentic “Angela” as well.

Building Trust Through Offline Networking

When was the last time you trusted a random person on the internet? In fact, isn’t the first advice given to anyone on online social media to ignore and not trust anything a stranger tells you? Just how much of a relationship do you have with someone you’ve only interacted with in Twitter DMs? And even worse, if you are on social media you probably get abused by scammers and other annoying people a lot. Social media for me has a dark side and it’s very easy to feel vulnerable there after you were told for the 100th time that someone wants something from you. Most of the time I find it irritating and frustrating.

Professional networking, similarly, can only go so far to building your relationships if they’re limited to online interactions. Face-to-face meetings help develop a higher level of trust among participants – positive body language plays a great role in helping put nervous people at ease. Similarly, interacting in the same physical space (over a coffee, at a lunch or even a mixer of sorts) is a great ice-breaker. Shared experiences always do leave a lasting memory, what better way to start building a repertoire with your network?

Believe in the Networking Karma

The thing about networking is, it’s not a transactional relationship. You don’t go into it expecting rewards, or even gratitude. You do it because you believe in ‘networking karma’. That said, you are only human and even the most generous of givers can find themselves overwhelmed at times. That’s why it is important to set up boundaries that help you prevent burnout and maintain a healthy relationship with yourself and your network. I have adopted the “Five-Minute-Favor” from Adam M. Grant’s book “Give and Take” as one of the principles that I can easily say yes to. With knowledge exchange it depends on whether I feel I get the same inspiration out of the relationship that I give in. Usually, this is the case in most of my networking groups, usually I prefer “Erfa”-Groups where practical tips are exchanged to a captive audience and “Mastermind-Groups”, where we usually bring our lazy selves forward and overcome imposter syndrome. In Switzerland you can also follow the institutionalized networking by joining an association or club that is dedicated to your profession. If you need more advice on this please reach out to me. I’m offering my resources and recommendation to readers and clients within our HireMeExpress program.

Five Pandemic Ideas for Offline Networking

1 – Go for a Walk at Lake Zurich with a Cup of Americano

The easiest way to network offline right now is the walk along the lake with a coffee to go. I have finally bought a reusable cup because the waste of coffee cups and general one-way packaging is starting to get on my nerves. My local bakery accepts that you bring your own plate or bowl when you buy lunch from them.

2 – Allow for a Weekly “Watercooler Chat”

What I am missing the most about working in an office environment is the social part, the watercooler chats about not so professional topics, the casual bumping into colleagues and asking them about their cats and the general exchange of fun and pleasantries when you work with the same people for years. As a global digital nomad you will have to get used to building up relationships fast but there are always people that you have known for a long-time even if you worked at different companies or on different projects. And it is absolutely okay if you contact them without a reason and set up a “Watercooler” chat where you strictly make smalltalk only or chat about your family or the last tech problem you faced when trying to organize a vaccination for your mother from abroad. I know you are as keen as I am in turning into a mega productive robot but allow yourself this time by blocking half an hour once a week (that’s in addition to a daily lunch break).

3 – Visit the Zoo or Kunstmuseum

I admit that I haven’t been to the Zurich Zoo yet and the last time I went to the Kunstmuseum was probably when I was here as a tourist or when I had friends over from other countries. I admit that I tend to not fully utilize all the opportunities Zurich offers during “normal” times but if you wanted to meet me right now these two options are open and you can connect while watching giraffes or looking at a Warhol. I am sure this will go down really well as a networking opportunity. 

And: If you aren’t convinced yet at least take your kids there to support the Zoo because…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ztC2QCkge2I&ab_channel=ZooZ%C3%BCrich

4 – Go for a Hike

Generally we have a lot of opportunities for small hikes in the city and out in the countryside. If you are a workaholic you might not be aware of them so I suggest you start with Uetliberg, Felsenegg, Greifensee and Pfäffikersee. I don’t own a car but most of these locations can be accessed by public transportation and if you wish to save your contact time you will need to let them know how they get there or pick them up.

5 – Share a Themed Take Out Meal on a Park Bench

With the upcoming week and the spring weather we are expecting you could invite a person you wish to meet to a themed take out meal on a park bench. Even if restaurants are still closed we have these beautiful parks in Zurich and a botanical garden where you can take your lunch in a beautiful atmosphere. If you want to make it even more interesting you could combine it with a topic or an expert interview.

If you are a Giver Watch your Boundaries

If you’re a seasoned professional with the wisdom of experience to share, offline networking can help you build trust with those who wish to seek your advice but would hesitate to reach out to you directly. By giving off an approachable vibe, perhaps giving a little impromptu talk to a group of people, you can embed that necessary bit of trust in younger professionals to reach out and network with you and others at your position. They’d go on to do it when they reach your place in their careers, and continue the cycle of positive networking!

A natural consequence of purposeful networking is the asking and giving of advice. For experienced professionals, especially those who actively network, it can soon become an overwhelming practice. Giving advice is great, it’s what makes the world turn, but when your network constantly reaches out for advice on anything from spreadsheet optimization to career planning, it can lead to the sort of burnout that makes you want to stop networking. It may also negatively impact your health!

Learning to say no is never easy, especially if you’re worried about coming off as impolite. It is, however, essential. Let your principles guide you: Develop a strategy that lets you identify scenarios where you say yes and those where you say no. Stick to this guideline and maintain your sanity!

Kind regards,

Angie Weinberger

Why you need networking principles

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRUXcBT_QS8&t=10s&ab_channel=AngieWeinberger

https://www.everydayhealth.com/coronavirus/how-to-not-let-pandemic-fatigue-turn-into-pandemic-burnout/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdFudLPyqng&ab_channel=RobBulder

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