With the strange and unpleasant times the pandemic has brought upon us, it has also brought a new age of networking. The transition to having a majority of events and meetings online has taken a drastic toll on our ability to meet and connect on a deeper level with peers who could positively influence our careers. On Wednesday, Oct. 21, the Career Center held an event titled “How to Network During a Pandemic.” Led by Director of Career and Professional Connections Sandra Arana, the event outlined the key rules to keep in mind when connecting through an online platform that guarantee you will be remembered, and give you a jumpstart on the path to success.
In order to step into the new norm of social networking, it is important to step out of your comfort zone when exploring new ideas for social interaction. Meeting people online is a lot less effective and personal than face-to-face, so alternative strategies must be used to gain an upper hand. As stated during the event, “approximately 80 percent of career opportunities are due to networking, so online networking in the age of COVID[-19] has become [a lot] more prominent.” What some people may not realize is how easy networking actually is, because it is all based on a conversation. Since nowadays business and pleasure are often mixed, advancing in a career based off of relationships has become easier than ever. More than likely, you already have a community of people in your life that could provide some type of support in your field. Networking is simply establishing common interests during a conversation and finding value in one another. To increase the level of effectiveness, utilizing this step-by-step process would be a great way to make successful connections.
Make Connections. Since networking is conversation-based, it is beneficial to think about what you can add to the conversation, even if it is through Zoom. It is not just about what you can receive from the other person, but also what you bring to the table. You can do this by identifying the “white spaces” and filling the gaps in dialogue. When engaging in a conversation, listen to what the other person is saying and provide suggestions as needed.
This can also be a way to provide something for them by offering up assistance or even mentioning someone you know that could benefit them. It’s all about creating a community of like-minded people who can lift each other up. As Arana stated during the event, “There is always an opportunity in an interaction to give something in a simple conversation.” Networking involves the entirety of the community around you — from students in your class, to folks met at events, to people you follow on social media, opportunities are always a conversation away.
Identify your circle. The next step is to measure the value individuals hold in your circle. It is important to take note of who is bringing you up, who is bringing you down, and make adjustments accordingly. While some people energize us to be better, some people may also de-energize us, which can have a negative impact on levels of motivation and overall mindset. It is suggested to re-evaluate who you are following on social media, who you view as role models, and who you keep in your network. Those people are shaping you and your success. The connections that hold the most value in your life are the ones you want to keep and pursue further. You also want to nurture and strengthen those connections by indicating what value you can add to their lives.
Nurture relationships. After creating a connection with someone, the next step is to stay relevant in their mind. This way, when the time comes, you’re still in their loop for potential job opportunities. Social media holds the perfect solution for this. Simple things such as liking/commenting on posts, replying to stories, congratulating them on achievements. Utilizing platforms such as LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc. and following/friending employers helps drastically with relevancy as well. This creates familiarity especially because then your contact information is easily accessible.
Build your network. Social media is most essential when building your community. The most essential platforms, as mentioned above, are LinkedIn, Handshake, and Instagram. When developing these platforms, you want to think: “How am I building my brand?” “What am I presenting about myself?” There is an art to networking. According to Arana, “There is a much higher percentage of employers that interact with you if you have a developed platform.”
Tips for LinkedIn profile:
- Professional profile picture (avoid selfies)
- Include a background picture; this is a great way to showcase your interests or what you do
- Make your headline stand out by utilizing key-words, stating what makes you stand out, and so on
- Write a small summary, including relevant experiences (two paragraphs is recommended)
- Add your relevant skills, and don’t be afraid to request endorsements
Although it may be a different approach than normal, networking during the pandemic doesn’t have to be difficult. We are all in the same boat, so employers and peers encourage these forms of communication.. It just comes down to having good conversations, finding common interests, making deeper connections, selling yourself, and keeping up with communication. By doing these things, you develop the capability of putting yourself much further ahead in your career by creating a community that you can go to whenever need be. Even if it’s only on social media, ‘I know someone’-based opportunities are the perfect way to get yourself out there and find jobs available to you that you didn’t even know existed.
Feature image: Courtesy of Whittier College Career Center via Facebook.