The past year brought changes in how we communicate, work and socialize. It’s also changed how we network as young professionals. Here are a few of the biggest things I’ve learned about networking over the past year:
In March 2020, I was supposed to attend SXSW in Austin, TX with a group of students from my undergrad university. A big part of the SXSW experience is the networking opportunities it brings, and I was excited to already have a few meetings set up with professionals from industries I was interested in. When SXSW was canceled days before my flight, the trip coordinator encouraged us to not let those connections go and still reach out to people we had scheduled meetings with. I followed through on LinkedIn and was able to have some great conversations with professionals who shared how the pandemic was affecting them as it was just unfolding.
I was happy to see how receptive people were to chatting with me, even if it was only for a few minutes. Once I got to Newhouse later in 2020, I realized it wasn’t just me who thought people seemed more open to networking online. Professors encouraged us to connect with that person who has a role at your dream company and find out more about what they do. It’s not about having the expectation that that random connection might open the door to a job somewhere down the road (although it totally might), but it’s about learning more about the companies and industries you’re interested in through the eyes of the folks actually working in those roles. If you’re connecting with a stranger on LinkedIn, adding a personal note with your invitation can go a long way in breaking the ice.
If you can stand to spend extra time in front of your computer, check out some professional development workshops or courses. The Newhouse Career Development Center offers lots of useful seminars and events that you should take advantage of. In addition to the Job Hunt series which gets you access to the Newhouse Network, the CDC hosts resume and cover letter workshops, career fairs and more every semester. The university’s Career Services office has plenty of great resources, too. You never know who you might meet through one of these events who might help you later in life!
Don’t get discouraged if the contact you reached out to hasn’t read your message or replied to your email. Be strategic in who you connect with and focus on building authentic relationships; it takes time and can be hard to know what success looks like in networking. Go in with realistic expectations for the relationship— as in, don’t expect a connection to hook you up with a job after a few conversations. Your connections probably won’t pay off immediately, but maintaining them properly is just as important as making them in the first place!