Are you seeking a job, internship, or thesis opportunity, but struggling to connect with people in these virtual formats? Read on for some tips and tricks.
Networking could be a challenging experience for many. Speaking to new people can be intimidating and even uncomfortable for introverts. It is not always clear where to begin or which tactics to use. Traditionally, networking has taken place at job fairs, conferences, social gatherings, and more. However, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, many such events have been canceled, postponed, or shifted to an online format, further confounding the already difficult activity. Yet many students are seeking jobs, internships, or thesis opportunities. Hereby some tips from what I have learned about networking in ‘corona times’ during the last months as an EIT InnoEnergy Master’s student.
Start with what you know: who is already in your existing network? This could be past professors, past advisors and mentors, or people you met from a previous job, internship, etc. Scroll through your LinkedIn connections and reach out.
It could also include your fellow students: know someone in the city you want to live in, or working for the company you would like to work for? Reach out to them! Everyone is, at some point, in this boat. The more you know the easier it is to make informed decisions and pursue paths that may interest you.
As students, we have a huge variety of resources at our disposal through our universities. Begin with your professors and teacher assistants, who are experts in the field; by bonding over a common interest from a class, it is easy to open a conversation. Did you attend an interesting guest lecture or seminar? Whether it is in-person or virtual, do not hesitate to send an email!
Universities also have a wide-ranging support infrastructure for different topics. For example, many universities nowadays have an innovation or entrepreneurship hub, to assist students in building a business out of their creative ideas. They can also connect you with people who could help you further. Looking for more technical expertise in your field? Many universities have a student association within each school or thematic area, often with valuable direct connections to industry.
EIT InnoEnergy Master’s students, in particular, have a solid network around them. This features the environment of your first and second year university along with the additional program components, such as ESADE Business School. Master’s in Smart Electrical Networks and Systems (SENSE) students pursue an Industrial Innovation Project in the second semester of their first year; Master’s in Sustainable Energy Systems (SELECT) pursue a Project of the Year (PoY) and the integrated Project of the Year (IPoY) in their first and second years, respectively. Both of these are examples of opportunities to develop personal relationships with a company.
Outside of the sphere of education, the EIT InnoEnergy ecosystem also includes start-ups backed up by EIT InnoEnergy, where many EIT InnoEnergy students seek internships or positions. Also, the CommUnity by EIT InnoEnergy along with the dedicated Career Centre are there for students to assist with developing these connections. The Career Centre also offers technical assistance, in the sense of offering CV reviews and mock interviews.
Although many events and activities were canceled due to the pandemic, many simply shifted to an online format. Despite the decreased human connection, the accessibility of these events increased dramatically – anyone can join from anywhere in the world, simply with their laptop!
In the past year alone, I have participated in 3 online hackathons and 2 online conferences. These opportunities arose out of activities I had been involved in, through my Master’s programme, and more. Many conferences, lectures, seminars, activities, etc. are being virtually organised by public actors such as: NGOs, universities etc. Afterwards, don’t forget to send a LinkedIn invitation and note, opening the connection.
Have you attended an event, but neglected to follow up? I would say it is never too late to reach out. Although you may not have developed a personal connection – it is much harder to ‘mingle’ online than offline – not all hope is lost. Many companies want active, engaged employees. You do not have to be in the winning group in the hackathon; simply by participating, you are demonstrating a commitment to extracurricular activities that can broaden your perspectives and offer a valuable learning experience. Make sure to mention your participation and the lessons you gained.
Remember: networking is not only about making connections, it is also about building a relationship. Don’t expect instant gratification, but have a clear plan and keep working: know what you are seeking and why.
And remember, these are uncertain times for everyone, and many people genuinely want to help. Unsure about initiating a conversation? Do it. You don’t know until you try.