For many industries, networking is crucial. Companies rely on networking for new sales leads, young professionals rely on networking for job opportunities, and even journalists rely on networking for stories.
Before the pandemic, networking was a lot simpler for college students: you meet people through classes and clubs, attend events and conferences, or even meet new people when going out. But the pandemic has made meeting new people more difficult in every sense of the word.
Luckily for professionals, the world of networking still carries on. Recently, I was able to attend a Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) conference virtually. Hosted by the University of Rhode Island, this conference made me realize that even in the midst of a pandemic, there are ample opportunities to meet new professional contacts.
One of those contacts was Alexis Woody, CEO of Ren Public Relations, a PR firm here in Columbus. Woody hosted a breakout session discussing personal branding and networking. Upon attending this session, I decided to follow up with Woody to ask about how networking has evolved as a result of the pandemic.
“Networking has changed for the better as people are more accessible online,” said Woody, citing LinkedIn as a platform she uses to connect with old colleagues and potential new partners/clients.
For many, sending that initial LinkedIn request can be extremely daunting, especially if the person you are reaching out to is a high-level executive. When reaching out to someone who has your dream job, for example, Woody chooses to keep it simple: send a short sentence or two about why you’d like to connect and mention something you admire about their career or recent work. “It’s important to care about the people you’re connecting with, so networking adds value for both of you.”
Besides LinkedIn, there are many other ways to find like-minded professionals in your industry. Woody likes to use the Girlboss community feature as well as Slack workspaces. “I’ve been added to Slack workspaces for entrepreneurs, and it’s been awesome. I also enjoy networking through organizations, events, and webinars.”
There are professional organizations for many industries. Below are examples of some of the largest organizations and their respective industries:
- National Association of Realtors (realty)
- American Bar Association (law)
- American Institution of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) (accounting)
- American Medical Association (medicine)
Another recent trend in networking is the rise of networking social media platforms, such as Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces. Both services launched after the onset of the pandemic and offer another way to connect with new people via live audio chat.
Focusing on Clubhouse here, the app launched in April 2020 and quickly grew a user base throughout the pandemic. The app features a series of virtual rooms where users can join as audience members. Upon joining a room, you can listen as an audience member or join in on the conversation by “raising your hand” (similar to Zoom).
The app is currently invite-only, but due to the rapidly growing popularity of the service, chances are you already have a friend on the app who can invite you in. Clubhouse seems like a great way to replicate the experience of a social hour amidst a conference, and you can even follow topics that interest you, ranging from hobbies and industries to identities and more.
No matter what platform or method you choose, making the most of networking takes strategy and care. Woody touches upon this in her advice to students:
“The most important advice I can offer is never to burn a bridge (unless necessary). You’ll be surprised who you might work with in the future or who might offer a great referral on your behalf. Know how to set healthy professional boundaries and connect with people who inspire you. Last but certainly not least, remember to give back when someone reaches out to you for guidance or to learn about your journey. Someone once took the time to talk to you.”
Featured image by Visual Tag Mx via Pexels