Networking for Newbies During the Pandemic

Networking has become the primary way jobs are obtained, and during the pandemic, experts say making professional connections is more crucial than ever. In fact, the author of The 20-Minute Networking Meeting suggests that job searchers spend 80 percent of their time networking, 10 percent contacting recruiters, and 10 percent looking at online postings.

For grads just entering the workforce, however, networking can feel awkward and foreign. Share the tips below with your students so that they can feel confident building their professional contacts. We have summarized this information in a PDF handout (The A-B-Cs of Networking, available at the end of this post) that you can pass along to your classes.

Understand the purpose of networking. Networking plays a critical part in a job search for several reasons. First, many positions go unadvertised, so the only way to learn about them is through contacts.

Second, a high number of employers feel more comfortable hiring people through their networks; therefore, joining a network is a way to become a known quantity.

Finally, networking can help new job candidates learn from more experienced individuals. Fortunately, many seasoned employees enjoy sharing their stories and career trajectories with students and are willing to take the time to pass along their knowledge.

Develop a network while in school. Take advantage of online networking opportunities available only to students to build a network before graduating. Alumni groups and campus career services may offer online networking events during the pandemic.

Reach out to fellow students, family, and friends for potential contacts, too. But most important is building a robust LinkedIn presence, which has become as mandatory to job seekers as a résumé.

Participate in online groups. Look into Facebook or LinkedIn Groups that align with your career goals and interests. Many online job search groups exist, but before joining, follow a few tips:

  • Conduct an Internet search for your name to see what a hiring manager would find out about you, and remove inappropriate material.
  • Never list personal information or post compromising comments or photos.
  • Read the group’s FAQs before joining conversation threads so you don’t commit any embarrassing faux pas.
  • Stay on topic when in an online chat.

Follow industry blogs. Blogs are common ways to share information. Find and follow blogs about the field that interests you to stay up-to-date and learn about possible opportunities.

Set up virtual networking meetings. When you find someone willing to have a networking meeting with you, do all the logistical work. Ask for a specific amount of time, say 20 or 30 minutes, and provide a month-long timeline from which the individual can pick a day and time for the meeting. Also ask the interviewee’s preference of format: Skype, Zoom, GoToMeeting, or FaceTime.

Send an invitation immediately after setting the date and a reminder one day before the session. Be mindful that a networking interview is a wisdom-seeking expedition during which the less experienced individual is listening, not speaking.

Prepare for the virtual meeting. Set up your camera and lighting beforehand. Choose a neutral background and practice with the technical format you’re using if it is unfamiliar.

Prepare by researching the individual’s background on LinkedIn and by conducting a Google search. See if you share are any commonalities—does the person coach a soccer team, which just happens to be your favorite sport? Did you both attend the same university or major in the same field?

Prepare open-ended questions that lend themselves to longer responses such as, How did you break into XX field? How is the field different now than when you started? What advice would you offer someone in my position?

Master the one-minute narrative. Be ready to describe yourself succinctly to a new contact. Develop a story that explains how your education and interests align with the industry you hope to enter. Describe how your strengths and skills could add to an organization’s productivity or ethos, but keep it short.

Follow basic dos and don’ts of a networking interview. Remember the networker’s goal is to obtain knowledge from a more experienced person in a specific industry, so asking about a job opportunity is improper.

Networking is the key to making the connections needed to land a job. Building a network—even during the pandemic—makes a lot of sense.

The A-B-Cs of Networking

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