For college students and graduates alike, networking is imperative in the modern-day job market — yet has become all the more difficult in a virtual setting under the current pandemic.
Boston University’s Center for Career Development hosted an online workshop last week to help students overcome the obstacles of networking during the era of COVID-19.
“Networking in a Virtual World” introduced practical strategies for successful networking and highlighted the importance of reaching out when in-person networking events are on indefinite hold.
Eleanor Cartelli, senior associate director of CCD, wrote in an email remote learning and professional environment means many networking events are accessible to more students now that they must take an online format.
“Given the impact of COVID-19 on the global economy, learning how to network effectively is even more important than ever,” Cartelli wrote, “especially as students are looking more broadly for opportunities.”
CCD student ambassador Anna Pham, a senior in the College of Communication, was a speaker at the workshop. Pham said in an interview she hoped to alleviate students’ anxiety over networking by encouraging them to adopt a more casual, friendly mentality when contacting people.
“Eighty percent of jobs are found through networking, and BU has a lot of great alumni,” Pham said. “A lot of students, myself included, have this fear of reaching out to people, but if you think of networking as just meeting a new friend or trying to learn more about someone, I think that’s the biggest takeaway.”
When planning the workshop, Cartelli wrote the CCD focused on increasing students’ confidence and addressing overarching personal goals students should develop.
“We hope that students learn two things: First, that networking is easier and less stressful than they may have previously thought (and that they are probably already networking even if they don’t realize it),” Cartelli wrote. “Second, that networking can be an extremely powerful tool for their career – both for their immediate next steps and for their long-term professional growth.”
Aside from the CCD, BU is also home to various student organizations dedicated to facilitating the professional networking process. One among these is herNetwork.
Run under the Questrom School of Business, herNetwork’s slogan is “Women Means Business.” The club aims to empower aspiring professionals through workshops, speaker panels and an annual conference.
Questrom junior Jane Kang, vice president of marketing for herNetwork, said networking is almost more vital now than it was pre-coronavirus, given the newfound difficulty people face connecting with industry professionals in current circumstances.
“We are all losing that kind of personal touch right now,” Kang said.
Kang said students should not be intimidated by the networking process, because most recruiters and alumni are happy to connect with students.
“I know a lot of students are scared and they think that they are bothering the recruiters, but the recruiters are definitely 100-percent willing,” Kang said. “Even reaching out with that first cold email and first LinkedIn message, it’s so difficult, but [make] sure to reach out.”
When looking for connections that may help open the door to professional opportunities, Pham suggested students use BU Connects — a new platform on which past and present Terriers can network “on a global scale.”
Pham, who is embarking on the job-search journey herself, said students should fully utilize the University’s resources as they hunt for their next internship or eventual first job after graduation.
“Whether you’re a freshman or you’re a senior … reach out to people who are already in the industry,” Pham said. “It’s also an opportunity for you to learn more about the industry and post-grad life.”