Editor's note: This story originally appeared in the fall 2020 issue of ASU Thrive magazine.
COVID-19 really shook everything up, didn’t it? One day we’re climbing up that career ladder, then the next, due to no fault of our own, this pandemic pushed us into a land of masks and physical distancing.
Gone, for now, are the days of in-person networking events and happy hours. That doesn’t mean we should give up on networking. Opportunity is everywhere, even if we have to look harder for it.
The most important thing to do during this time is to breathe and keep moving forward. And that means making time to stay connected with people you’re not necessarily able to see in person.
To network in these times:
1. Interact with LinkedIn connections. We have all done it. You add someone on LinkedIn and then never do anything with that new connection. Instead, create a goal to increase your LinkedIn presence. For example, comment on every new job/promotion announcement and every happy birthday notice you receive. Message a certain number of your contacts to check in and see how they/their companies are adjusting to the current times.
2. Join virtual activities.They may be awkward at first, but why not give it a shot? Many universities, including ASU, are taking alumni events virtual. Industry organizations are doing happy hours and trivia nights. Can’t find one that interests you? Then start your own. Reach out to an industry group you are part of and offer to arrange an event.
3. Make a meaningful connection with someone you admire/want to learn from.Been looking for a good time to set up an informational interview but didn’t want to interrupt the person’s busy schedule? Have you always been trying to get an interview with an industry leader but never followed through? Now is your time. With the pressure off of in-person meetings, people are more open than ever to having virtual interactions. Request a simple Zoom meeting, offer to send an Etsy box so you are doing some kind of activity together, or finally propose that interview.
If we have learned anything from COVID-19 it is: There are always alternatives and we can adapt. The virtual world has expanded beyond social media; it is now the way we do business.
Our personal and professional lives have moved online. With that transition comes a greater opportunity to find the virtual connections for your next great opportunity. Try an unconventional networking method and see how it goes.
Then do it again, and again, and again. Who knows where you will be in six months if you work on growing and fostering your professional network? There’s only one way to find out.
Good luck out there. We will get through this; and you may even end up a bit ahead.
Written by Taylor Drake, ’09 BA in film, who leads marketing for a major litigation support firm in Los Angeles. At age 30, she co-founded Bluestocking Society, an online networking community for female professionals. Find out more at bluestockingsociety.co.