Creating Industry Connections (Virtually)
Graduating amidst a pandemic was not how I pictured spending my senior year of college. Life changed in an instant. The job market shrank. My classmates and professors were at home, scattered around the globe instead of in a single classroom. Person-to-person interaction became rare and exclusively transactional.
We are slowly emerging from our quarantine shells with a wide range of mixed emotions. Networking may have seemed like it took a backseat, but it has merely gone underground. You just must dig a little deeper to find it. Here are the ways I found that work in creating a virtual network right out of college.
Reach Out to Established Contacts
The connection web extends further than you could ever realize. If you want a job at BlahBlah Agency, there’s a chance that your cousin has a friend who has a brother who has a hair stylist that has a son who knows someone who works there. That’s why you have to thoroughly exhaust your network and your network’s network.
The bottom line is that you never know who knows who, so be nice to everyone. Try to maintain these relationships like you would a bridge. You don’t need to watch it all the time, but you might need to cross it sometime, so make sure it’s in good shape before you drive over it. Send out an occasional email asking how they are. It will do a world of a difference in the long run!
I recommend keeping an industry contact excel sheet. Not everyone has a perfect memory, so it’s nice to have a sheet detailing each connection’s:
- contact information
- whether you went to the same school
- This proves to be a helpful conversation point!
- how and when you met them
- This last one is important because it shows that you took the time to remember how you met this person. It makes you look professional and makes them feel special.
- who they connected you with (if applicable)
- It’s good to realize what connections you have in common. Sometimes it’s the glue that holds two people together!
This sheet will be a lifeline in the future when you’re trying to remember at which company Bobby works. Treat your contacts with respect, and you’ll be rewarded greatly.
If you haven’t gone through your recommended connections, do that first. If you’re on the job search, some recruiters are basic and look for the 500+ connections. Therefore, knock that out as much as you can with people you know. Check for people you’ve met through school and work experiences. Connect without discriminating between industry or field. You never know who knows who like I said in the beginning.
Next, look through the connection’s networks and industry employee pages. You may find some interesting people. Asking to connect because you have something in common is not outlawed. Just make sure to introduce yourself in your connection note! For some tips on this, try NetWorkWise’s article.
Remember, LinkedIn is a tool, so network responsibly.
Sign Up for Newsletters
I already hear you complaining. Hey, I hate filler emails bombarding my inbox just like anyone else, but it sometimes can offer tremendous value. Signing up for newsletters of popular industry news sources and industry networking groups gives you a leg up. Oftentimes, these sources host networking events – trust me, you want to be in on these events. Plus, the people composing these emails are ALSO people in the industry. Connections are everywhere. Use it to your advantage.
Personally, I’ve gained the most amount of contacts through this route. You’ll receive a ridiculous amount of emails from newsletters expanding on their webinars. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THEM. Plus, many of them are free and occur at convenient times. Pick one you’re interested in, sign up, and mark the date.
Hot tips for webinars:
- Dress for the occasion
- Although in many webinars you are on mute and your camera cannot be seen, dressing professionally gives a sense of confidence and purpose.
- Research your speakers
- They are interesting people, I promise. Check out their LinkedIn. You might have an unexpected similarity to be used in a conversation later!
- Check your tech
- It’s always a good idea to get familiar with the platform and test it out multiple times.
- Check the comments
- Many times, people will leave their LinkedIn profiles in the comments. Copy the links in tabs to connect after the webinar.
- Ask questions & know how to
- Asking questions is always a way to put yourself in a good light. Make sure you know how to do it on that platform.
- Thank the speaker
- Send them an email (if you can find one) or a message on LinkedIn. Yeah, there’s a possibility they won’t get back to you. But hey, if they do, that’s a high-up connection you have now!
Your network can offer you a railroad of opportunities. It may be harder to connect over a screen or phone, but it’s better than nothin’. The big thing is that everyone is in the same boat. One day we will return to live networking events, but we must make do until then. Virtual networking is a way of the future. Hone it like a skill and you’ll never regret it!