Networking in the Virtual Environment
2020 has created many challenges including how you conduct your job search. Interviews are now conducted virtually via platforms such as Zoom and Go to Meeting. In addition, building one’s network also is being done virtually whether it be a Zoom call, by phone or communicating through LinkedIn.
WHERE TO LOOK
When starting to build your network, LinkedIn is a must. You can look up former colleagues and ex managers, or even look for people you know or want to be introduced to within your target companies. Also, look up names on your mobile devices such as phone numbers and emails as well as your social media contacts. Remember, you are looking for people in your target companies/fields who can introduce you to people that can help you in your job search. Also, start brainstorming any contacts such as relatives, neighbors and ex co-workers. When attending networking groups like Professional Service Group of Central New Jersey (PSGCNJ), start reaching out to members on the chat logs of meetings you attend or on the group’s LinkedIn and Meet Up pages. I arranged an informational interview with a HR professional at Princeton University from another PSG group who I found on LinkedIn.
Coming from the newspaper industry, I have built up a list of contacts in government and in the community over the years as well as writers who used to report to me. I looked them up on LinkedIn to connect with and arrange informational interviews. Also consider direct messaging on Facebook.
HOW TO INTERACT/WHAT TO SAY
When asking for a virtual coffee meeting, offer to assist the person you are meeting, especially if you are both members of the same networking group. The exchange of information is a two-way street. In my case, I offered one new networking contact through the PSGCNJ information on newspapers in her area and encouraged her to ask about stringing (freelance) assignments such as municipal and school board meetings, while she provided me a link for a website on volunteer opportunities to help me gain additional experience during my transition.
You should have an open mind in your virtual chats towards related or even completely different fields. My chats have encouraged me to consider everything from teaching to political consulting to grant writing. In my case, I am also looking at LinkedIn certifications and Coursera for picking additional skills mentioned in job descriptions I have been reviewing. I also have a few pending independent contract/freelance projects for 2021 that were a direct result of reaching out to a former reporter who worked for me.
One of the persons I reached out to was public affairs director for a AAA of New Jersey office. A number of years ago, I had helped her obtain a ceremonial resolution from the State of New Jersey for a young man who was presented with its “Lifesaver Award.” Achieving a resolution presented on the floor of the Legislature required a lot of phone calls and emails including from the Senator himself in order to achieve our objective. I saved a hand-written thank you note from her in my portfolio.
About the author: Paul J. Peyton spent 15 years as assignment editor for two community newspapers, The Westfield Leader and The Scotch Plains-Fanwood Times, in Union County, NJ, where he directed a freelance staff of 12 reporters and photographers. He previously served two years as director of communications for three New Jersey state lawmakers. Mr. Peyton also serves as a Trustee for the Hillside Historical Society and as a Docent for the Woodruff House/Eaton Store/Phil Rizzuto Sports Exhibit in Hillside, NJ.
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