Almost a year into the pandemic, the days of grabbing a coffee with someone you hope to connect with are long gone. Without in-person interaction, how can we go about making meaningful connections in our respective industries to facilitate that infamous job search process?
The good news is that there are still ways to meet with people during the pandemic, as long as you are willing to do a little more research and outreach.
Take advantage of your university’s alumni network.
Your university likely has an alumni group on LinkedIn where you can connect with previous students. Take some time to look through this list for people who are in a similar industry, job field, or are in the roles you strive for. Alumni are almost always willing to help someone from their alma mater with some insight into their industry and will often keep you in mind when a position opens up at their company or put in a good word for you with a recruiter.
If you have an internship, network with your colleagues
In my experience, I worked closely with a handful of people on a few key projects, but whenever I could, I volunteered to work on other projects and networked with other interns. These other interns gave great tips about looking for other internships based on their past experiences and what they were working on in their departments. In hindsight, I should have done more to reach out to people with more seniority in other departments, but I was still shy. I would recommend going out of your way to message someone new every week.
Create good relationships with your professors
Even online professors will have great connections and occasionally provide their students opportunities for jobs and internships. I secured my current public relations internship after applying to two positions that my PR professor shared with the class. I was interviewed by and offered both, so even though I only took one, I made sure to keep the contact from the other one as a connection moving forward.
Join professional organizations on campus
Most organizations have transitioned to online meetings and programming, and many of these prioritize guest speakers as part of their offerings. These guest speakers are great people to connect with because they are already willing to spend time speaking to students about their experiences. They will often share their LinkedIn information and encourage students to connect with them. Make sure you personalize your note to include where you know them from, interact with their posts, and when the time is right, reach out to schedule a remote chat about their experiences and advice.
Networking virtually requires a bit more effort than traditional networking, but you can also do it from the comfort of your home and not have limits based on location. This situation is setting us up for more seamless remote communication in the future, so get ahead of the game and start practicing those Zoom networking skills now.