The virtual academic and professional environment doesn’t allow for networking opportunities to take place as naturally. Both informal and formal networking opportunities occurred easily through coffee meetings, dinners with coworkers, dropping in for professor office hours, career fairs, and large events. It’s common to feel that the virtual environment prevents you from networking, but this creates a new opportunity to connect with others! Don’t let the virtual space put a pause on your career journey.
Start with those in your existing network
Reach out to those who you already have relationships with such as close friends, classmates, family, teachers, mentors, and even individuals you haven’t spoken to for some time. It’s important to strengthen and maintain relationships with existing connections before aiming to expand your professional network.
Reflect on who you want to connect with
Who do you want to meet or learn more about? People you want to connect with may work in companies you are interested in, be in the field that you are hoping to pursue, or hold a position similar to one you are interested in.
Update your LinkedIn profile
Make sure your LinkedIn profile reflects all of your professional and academic experience. Your profile should up to date before you begin reaching out to those you want to connect with. It’s helpful to have a personal statement at the top of your profile explaining more about yourself, especially for those early on in their careers.
Set time aside to network
Think of a time of the day or the week that you want to commit to networking. Even if it’s 45 minutes a week, this is time you are investing in building your professional brand. The following are ideas of how you can invest your time online:
- Join groups on LinkedIn such as your college network and reach out to alumni
- Find volunteer associations and organizations you participate in
- Re-share and comment on articles that relate to your career interest/your major
- Research new companies or organizations to follow
- Think of others often by sharing articles or job postings that may interest someone in your network
Be comfortable reaching out to those you don’t know
What’s the worst outcome if you reach out to someone you do not know? The worst thing that can happen from this situation is that you simply do not receive a response. It’s worth to send a LinkedIn message or email introducing yourself as this can lead to a great new connection. Your introduction message should include what you are studying and what your future goals are.
Set up informational interviews
The virtual space allows us to connect with those outside of where we live. Are you interested in learning more about working outside of the United States or working in the midwest? It’s more common now to organize virtual meetings and we encourage you to take advantage of that! Arrange a time to meet on Zoom and learn from others’ college and professional experience. Informational interviews are great opportunities to receive advice and ask questions.
Utilize your school services
Many school services have been able to expand their services online. Remember to continue to use your school’s career services! You will be able to develop your professional skills, resume, and additional materials from the comfort of your own home.