By: Neha Bhalla
There’s no doubt that COVID-19 drastically transformed the entire job search process — networking included. Many career seekers express their frustration with me that virtual networking is not as easy as in-person networking. The reality is that virtual networking is not going away for a long time, if ever; however, it can actually be easier with the right mindset and methods.
Virtual Specific Benefits
Global Availability: Unlike in-person networking, virtual has no bounds. If you’re considering moving to a new location, you can start meeting people before you land a job.
Convenience: It can be nearly impossible to get a busy person to meet you out for coffee. 15 minutes on a Zoom call, however, is a much smaller ask. Many students don’t have cars so they can skip maneuvering the bus schedule for an hour for a 20-minute meeting. Plus, while you still have to look prepared, you don’t have to put as much effort into dressing up for a Zoom call.
Increased Opportunities. Many workshops, webinars, and events that were once solely in-person are now being offered online or both. Check out associations that have opportunities for students or emerging professionals and join in on their events. For instance, the NAEP is now offering “Happy Hours with Leadership,” ask-us-anything type of networking events online. Anyone can join and meet other Environmental Professionals.
Once you acknowledge and embrace these changes, I hope that you can approach networking online with the same excitement (or, for you introverts, less dread) as you did before COVID moved everything online.
Here is how to effectively network in the post-COVID age:
Clean up your LinkedIn
When was the last time you changed your profile picture? Updated your “about” section?
Someone’s first impression of you used to be based on the clothes you were wearing, if you showed up on time to an event, or your handshake — while these still apply, your virtual presence is equally important.
Nowadays, professionals and employers will judge you and decide to reach out to you based almost solely on your LinkedIn. You want to make sure that your LinkedIn is up-to-date, professional, and warm, to encourage people to reach out to you. Here are some tips:
When messaging on LinkedIn, stay away from any text-talk, abbreviations, or slang. After a few messages back and forth, you can suggest a virtual meeting.
Drop the “Unprecedented Times” Spiel
As we enter our junior year of the pandemic, it’s pretty safe to say that these times are no longer unprecedented.
Although starting a networking message with something like “How are you holding up with COVID?” or “Hope you are staying happy and healthy” was commonplace in 2020, it isn’t as relevant anymore.
If you’re looking for a detailed guide to drafting a networking message via email, LinkedIn, or some other platform, check out Step Four of “5 Proven Steps to Effective Job Networking.” Generally, though, you don’t want to start with your ask — especially if it’s something big, like a referral or resume review. Instead, see if you can offer them anything first or find a way to build a connection based on their LinkedIn profile.
Give More than You Take
Too many people go into networking with the wrong mindset. They see it as a fast-track to success or a way to circumvent the standard job search process. In actuality, networking is as much (if not more) “give” than it is “take.”
No matter where you are in your career, you can offer something. If you are a seasoned professional, you can help a recent grad learn more about entering the environmental industry. If you’re a student, you might be able to help professionals find interns from your school.
Networking can also be a bit demoralizing. Be prepared to receive a lot of no’s and no-reply’s. The reality is most people are not blowing you off, they may just feel that they don’t have anything to offer to you, or they may have missed your message altogether. Regardless, it only takes a few people to reply to make valuable, long-lasting connections.
Most of Networking Hasn’t Really Changed
Although networking might seem very different, the core of it is really the same. Most advice that you may have received before the pandemic still applies, although it might have to be adapted to work virtually. You will still need to be intentional with your networking messages, strategic about who you reach out to, and dedicated to your networking plan.
If you want to read more about networking, check out the ENVIROlocity Blog!