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Updated: December 27, 2021 How To

How to thaw out your pre-pandemic networking skills

As we emerge from over a year of quarantining and social distancing, it’s important to start networking again. Human beings need social contact — personally and professionally.

Nancy Marshall
Nancy Marshall

In the post-pandemic normal (whenever that is), opportunity will come to those who are connected with others. Opportunity won’t come your way if no one knows your name or your unique qualities — what I like to call your “superpowers.” Opportunity can only knock if you show opportunity the door.

That all sounds well and good, but networking itself isn’t always so straightforward. From anxiety to a lack of experience, many people struggle to connect with others.

So how do you start? Above all else, the key is listening and remembering. Make networking a two-way street.

When you meet someone new, the most important thing to do is remember their name and something about them. The sweetest sound to the human ear is the sound of your own name, so be sure to remember and repeat the other person’s name in order to strengthen that relationship.

Then, focus on what makes that person unique. Here are a few examples: How’s your dog Muffin? Where does your son play baseball? What’s your new fitness routine called?

To be memorable to others, you need to show others that you care. And that can only happen if you invest in listening and learning about them — genuinely learning about them. People can see through the superficial. You want to make your connections as personal as possible, so they don’t feel transactional.

The more personal your networking (even if it’s still “professional”), the deeper the connections you’ll forge. You will extract more value from deep connections than shallow ones, whether you’re dating or applying for a new job.

Show you care. As President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Don’t lead with deliverables and contracts. Don’t lead with job asks and transactional questions. Lead with caring.

Opportunity will come to those who are top of mind. A strong personal brand is memorable. While you master the “care” component, you can still work on yourself. Figure out what makes you, you. If you are still in school, pay attention to what you like and love. What energizes you? What makes you happy? Is it marine biology or romance novels?

Those are your superpowers. For me, it has always been people! I have always been fascinated by people’s stories — how their past has shaped their present. Networking energizes me.

But, even if you don’t love networking, you can still be an effective networker. You can still be a quality listener. Here’s an exercise: Think of three questions to ask the next person you meet, and then just let them talk about themselves. People generally love to have someone listen to their stories. All you have to do is remember their name and something about them for the next time.

Then, when the “next time” comes, people will know you care, and you will become memorable. Your personal brand will shine through. Eventually, opportunity will come knocking!

Nancy Marshall, founder and CEO of Marshall Communications, is the host of “The PR Maven Podcast.” She can be reached at

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