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How to Network Effectively During COVID-19

networking online

You might be wondering, how can I network with anyone when all networking events, job fairs and social gatherings have been cancelled due to the pandemic?  This is actually a great time to start thinking about ways you can make connections virtually with professionals in your field of interest. Some people have more time to connect online and because it is a challenging time, they will be more willing to help if asked.  As several surveys indicate, 80% of people find work through networking.

Networking is a vital step for career development and job searching. It is important to have a network of professionals you can reach out to because you never know when you might need a reference for a job offer, advice on your career options, or insights on your job search strategy.  Following up with someone after many years can be awkward so do not wait until you need help with something to reach out to your contacts.  Keep in touch with them while you are studying because this will also aid in developing a connection.  Who are these contacts?  They could include professors, alumni, former coworkers, an internship supervisor, members of a professional association, recruiter/hiring manager you met at a previous job/career fair or an on-campus event.  

Do you have a virtual networking strategy?  Here are some tips on how you can use this time to virtually network effectively. 

How to Network effectively on LinkedIn 

Update your LinkedIn profile prior to networking with professionals, especially if you are a job seeker because employers, recruiters and professionals in the industry will be viewing your profile and you want to make a good impression.  You can make connections by strategically searching for professionals who are currently working in your industry.  An easy way of making a connection is by searching for alumni who have graduated from your program. How do you search for alumni?  Visit the University of Windsor’s LinkedIn page, then click on the Alumni tab.  From here, type in the name of your program.  This will generate of list of alumni who have graduated from your program and you see where they work and where they live.

Once you have found a professional that you would be interested in, you can click the connect button. Before you send the request, make sure you write a message. Introduce yourself and briefly state why you would like to connect with them.  Remember, do not to ask for a job right away because you have not made a connection yet, and they might ignore your request altogether. Instead, mention that you would like to connect with them to learn more about their industry or company and are interested in any career advice they can share.  It would be best to send out as many requests as possible because you may only get a few responses.  Do not take it personally if you send out 15 requests and only get 3 responses.  Even one new connection is better than none!

Here are a few resources that provide great advice on now to network and make connections on LinkedIn:

 

Additional Networking Resources 

There are other resources you can use to connect with professionals and mentors.  UWindsor Ten Thousand Coffees (10K Coffees) is a great way to network.  It is a networking hub that is supported by RBC Future Launch.  What are the benefits of using this platform?   It is an easy way to make great connections online and you will get valuable advice on how to plan your career and navigate the ‘hidden job market’ from University of Windsor alumni and community partners.  

The great thing about this platform, is that you can connect with someone who can provide advice on how to build your skills and develop your career in a specific industry; network with a professional to conduct an information interview and learn more about the current labour market and get tips on how to job search.  Also, you can opt into automatic monthly introductions to other members of UWindsor’s 10K Coffees hub from the comfort of your home. If you are interested in learning more about this opportunity, you can sign up here

 

How to reconnect with your network.  Is there anyone in your current network that you have not reached out to in a while?  Take the initiative and follow-up with previous coworkers, supervisors, mentors or even professors that you had a good connection with. If you have their current email address, you can send them a personal email and you may have to re-fresh their memory by re-introducing yourself and let them know how you met and where you are in your current studies or career.  If you do not have their current email address you can try connecting with them through social media.  Then proceed to ask for advice and any questions you may have.  You might feel like you are bothering them but do not worry, this is a strategy that may help with job leads , learn a new skill, develop your knowledge about the labour market or referrals to other professionals in the industry.  Even if they do not respond, at least you tried.  Remember, you have nothing to lose by reaching out.  

 

Building your skills. Do you want to learn how to make pivot tables with Microsoft Excel, how to improve your presentation skills, or need advice on a project you are working on?  Do you know someone who has this experience and is an expert in their field? Why not reach out to that expert and schedule a time to discuss those tips over the phone or through a video platform. This expert could be a professor or a professional that works in the industry. This would be a great time to network and develop your skills at the same time. 

 

Research groups and associations related to your industry. This is another great way to make connections and get advice from individuals that work in various sectors of the industry.  You can find some of these groups through LinkedIn by selecting requested groups. LinkedIn will allow to you join up to 100 groups but do not join the group and stay stagnant. Be engaged, have meaningful discussions, and ask questions, because the other members will notice your contributions and they might be willing to connect with you.  LinkedIn will recommend some of the groups that you can join based on your interests in your profile. You can also search for specific groups related to your field of interest. For example, in the groups search bar you can type in ‘chemistry’ and you will find a list of groups and associations.  Once you have found a group of interest, you can click on request to join the group.  Here are some tips on how to join a group through LinkedIn.  

 

Find Discussion Boards.  You can take the initiative and search for groups related to your industry by conducting a Google search to find groups that communicate through discussion boards.  These forums are web-based, and some are subject-specific. For example, I used the following keywords to conduct a search, “networking discussion boards for environmental science”.   The results gave me 25 forums and social media sites I can review.  It also provided a directory of environmental groups across Canada.  Your strategy is not to join all 25 forums.  You will need to research and find groups that will add value to your career development and include experts in your field of interest. Another tip is to find out if they communicate regularly through social media platforms or conduct their meetings through a video platform such as Zoom.  That way you can make new connections and have insightful and meaningful discussions around various topics while staying connected to your industry. 

The way we network may change in the future and it is a great time to start learning how to network virtually and take advantage of the resources available to you online and through career services. 

 

Be courteous and professional. As a final note, always thank your contacts for taking the time to share their knowledge and expertise with you.  You can demonstrate your professionalism by sending them an email and outline what you learned and how they were able to help you with your career development. 

We Can Help!

You can schedule an appointment to have your LinkedIn profile reviewed by a career advisor or schedule a job search appointment to get additional tips on networking through mySuccess.  

Checkout our online webinar,  Using Social Media to Leverage Your Career

 

 Farrah Francis is a Career Consultant with Career Development & Experiential Learning