By Caroline Casey
It can be quite daunting to be a college or graduate student navigating the current pandemic amidst trying to build networking relationships for post-college plans. With minimal face-to-face interaction with professors and visiting professionals, it’s more crucial now than ever that we make our own efforts to further our knowledge and experience. Despite having the desire to be productive and proactive in our desired fields, many get lost before they begin. Luckily, online resources have made networking and learning much easier for all students and professionals that are ready to further their careers.
LinkedIn was founded in 2003, though it has become much more commonly used among the professional world in the past decade. On this social platform made for networking and promoting ideas, jobs, and more, all users have the chance to create their own profiles while researching the market. As a college student, or any person looking to begin building their online presence, it’s crucial to create a LinkedIn account. From there, you can begin following companies they find interesting, role models in their field, or even job alerts that target their specific demographic. Making the account is not the sole purpose of LinkedIn. Use this platform for becoming more well versed in your career field and interacting with others to network and grow your online presence.
Any active student most likely receives dozens of emails regarding job fairs, roundtable discussions, and more activities that are aimed to help gain insight from professionals in specific fields. During the pandemic, many of these events have become online sessions that consist of black screens and technological issues. However, this can be used to your advantage. No longer do job fairs require in-person presence. Instead, you can attend many of these events from home or housing on campus. With that being said, there are also fewer intimidating factors involved in speaking to professionals through a computer screen. Sign up for any event you might find interesting, do basic research on the speaker or specific company involved, and prepare at least one question for the speaker/speakers. Following the event, find the professional’s LinkedIn page and send them a thank-you note with a basic introduction. With these tactics, your network will continue to grow while gaining insights into potential companies and mentors in your field.
In most public relations courses, professors stress the need to build e-portfolios early on in your college career. While the task itself is tedious, with adding documents and pdfs, categorizing work and extracurricular pieces, and creating a theme that portrays your character in some unique way, the end result is worth it. By using sites such as Wix, Squarespace, Weebly, or WordPress, creating a website has never been made easier. Truthfully, the hardest part of creating an e-portfolio is sitting down to actually do it. However, it’s important to remember that an e-portfolio is a great addition to any resume, as it can showcase all past pieces of work. Furthermore, websites are a great tidbit to include in introduction or networking emails and notes. By allowing a possible employer or mentor to preview your previous pieces of work, they can see first-hand what you could contribute to their team.
Build an Online Presence
At one point, there must be an effort made to become professional online. Employers can find just about everything connected to your name on the internet. Therefore, it’s crucial to realize when accounts should be made private or public. Additionally, many people might decide to create second accounts for the sole purpose of professional networking rather than social pleasure. Many social media platforms allow for a user to utilize the “add account” option, in which users can seamlessly shift from personal to professional accounts with a single swipe. After speaking to several professionals that currently work for agencies or in-house departments, I have found that many believe it’s helpful to have public accounts that depict your interests and character. However, there is such thing as too personal. While building your online presence, take into account what you would want your future boss to see. Furthermore, make sure that you have some information online in order for employers to see that you do, in fact, have interests like any normal human being.
Make the Most of Your Downtime
Right now, we have more downtime than ever. Even as students, we get to complete many assignments and attend various meetings from the comfort of our homes. With that being said, I encourage you to use this time to your advantage.