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Networking in our New Normal: A How-To Guide

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Networking in our New Normal: A How-To Guide

By Jen Lassen, Marketing Supervisor at 6abc WPVI-TV and PACE Leadership Team Member

It’s no secret that COVID-19 has changed the world in which we live. It’s changed the way we spend time with others; how we shop, eat, and travel; and especially for all of us, this pandemic has majorly changed the way we work.

The marketing and advertising industry is built on human interaction. We brainstorm together, create together, do business together, go to events together, and support our community together. These days, the key word “together” has a whole new connotation, with Zoom chats replacing business lunches, FaceTimes replacing happy hours, and emails/texts/calls replacing impromptu meetings in the office to talk through an idea.

While technology provides a gateway to human connection, it doesn’t replace the feeling of person-to-person togetherness. It’s what our industry thrives on, and it has always been the backbone of successful working relationships. A huge part of how we build these relationships is networking.

While in-person networking events are not an option right now, there are still plenty of ways to make connections as we continue to live this “new normal.” Sure, making a career connection doesn’t look the same as striking up a candid conversation with someone at an event, but there are plenty of ways to find common ground with peers and superiors. It just requires a little bit of effort.

If you’re using this time to analyze your next career move; you’ve just graduated and are looking for a job; or you simply want to connect with others in the industry; then here are a few ways to boost your virtual networking skills:

  1. Attend virtual events. Luckily, Philly Ad Club is still hosting virtual events, like Trivia Night on August 27th hosted by the young professionals group, PACE (Philly Ad Club Emerge, formerly Philly Ad Club 2.0). Look for opportunities like these to interact with other professionals in the industry. You never know who you might “virtually” meet! Putting yourself out there is always the first step to networking success. If you never try, you’ll never know! Plenty of other organizations are hosting virtual events, especially non-profit organizations. Click around online or browse social media to see what’s out there, and block off some time in your calendar to log on, have some fun, and see who’s out there!
  2. Do your research. Take the time to browse company websites to understand more about what they do and read their mission statements. By simply browsing around, you never know what company you might discover, or what might resonate with you. Although many companies may be facing “hiring freezes” during the pandemic, there’s no harm in learning more about potential employers. Start by asking yourself, “What am I passionate about?” Is it advertising for particular brands? Is it marketing for education or healthcare? Is it television? Print media? From there, start Googling local companies. You never know where your search might take you. Keep a list of companies that pique your interest and see if you can connect with employees at each company.
  3. Ramp up your LinkedIn efforts. Now’s the time to freshen up your LinkedIn profile (if you haven’t recently). Upload a recent photo, update the descriptions of your responsibilities at your current or previous job/internship. Make sure you mark yourself “Visible” to recruiters and “Open” to job opportunities. Use the “Job Search” feature to supplement the research you’ve already done about local companies, and connect with folks who work at companies you’re interested in. The good news? Everyone is looking to connect right now so a personal message can go a long way. Since most of us are working from home, we’re spending more time in front of our computers, which means more time on social platforms like LinkedIn. Take advantage of this extra screen time to maximize your visibility and make as many connections as you can. Try saying something like, “Hi, (person’s name)…How are you holding up during this difficult time? I’ve been researching new career opportunities and came across your company. It really appeals to me because (reasons).” Showing people that you took the time to research their company will tell them that you’re invested, hardworking, and open to learning more. You differentiate yourself from the pack because you’re not just blasting the market with generic job inquiry messages.
  4. Ask your network for help and advice. In addition to making new connections, tap into the network of people you already know to see if they can connect you to a particular person or company. Does one of your high school or college contacts work for a company you’re interested in? Does someone you currently work with have a friend at a company that appeals to you? Don’t be shy when it comes to asking people you already know to connect you. Even if these new connections don’t result in a job opportunity immediately, you never know where they could come in handy in the future. Keep in touch with the people you know – whether personally or through previous jobs/internships – is important. Keep up with your connections through a friendly check-in, or share a story that made you think of that person. Again, a personal touch goes a long way…and since we’re all craving human connection right now, there’s no better time to reconnect! Don’t be afraid to ask your own network for advice. No one has all the answers – no matter what age or experience level – and asking a trusted connection for advice on interviewing, finding the right job fit, or expanding your network is totally acceptable, and always encouraged.
  5. Be yourself! No matter if it’s an in-person or virtual connection, the key is to be yourself. People respond extremely well to authenticity. If you’re funny, use that to your advantage! Make a light joke when appropriate to brighten someone’s day. The right employer will respond positively to your genuine personality, so don’t try to be someone you’re not when making connections or going for a new job. Another key ingredient is passion. Be sure to show your excitement for the company you’re approaching, and the previous job you had. Being excited about what you do is appealing to an employer. It shows them that you are interested in the job, and will subsequently be more motivated to get it done.

All that being said, there’s no doubt it’s challenging out there right now. COVID-19 has impacted every company somehow; that’s no secret either. But don’t get discouraged. People still crave human connection, and want to hear from and interact with other people in whatever ways we can. Putting effort into networking can certainly pay off, whether or not the result is an immediate job offer. Learning about other people and companies; experiencing fun virtual events with peers in the industry; and honing your own unique online presence will all be beneficial in developing your professional skills.

Until we can all get together at an event again and clink glasses, here’s a virtual *cheers* to keeping connections going strong, and making new ones as we network during this “new normal.”