Time to network

February 4, 2021


These are tough days to be seeding the ground for future opportunities, says Becca Shelton, a career adviser in the alumni and career services office. Professional conferences and other large-scale events where networking opportunities were a built-in feature have gone virtual. In their place is often a laptop screen, an awkward portal for nice-to-meet-you small talk.

“We’ve never been forced to have this much distance from each other,” she says.

Since March, as part of the lifelong services her office provides to alumni, Shelton has been hosting regular virtual sessions focused on how to navigate the current professional landscape. They have ranged from how to job search in a tough economy to workshops on résumé writing and remote interviewing. Another challenge she has tackled is how to network in a professional environment gone virtual.

She focuses on several challenges. The first is the need to establish clear boundaries.

“Work is now home, and home is now work,” she says. “Now it’s all blended, and the lines are blurred. Carving out time for networking activities is more difficult now.”

She also encourages people to map out a deliberate networking strategy.

“Be very purposeful and intentional about how you’re going to do this,” she says. Schedule specific time blocks on your calendar. Identify who, specifically, you want to add to your networking circles, since you can’t currently count on serendipitous meetings.

“When we think about all of our networking contacts, we need a lot of different people,” she says. “Sometimes, we just need cheerleaders in our lives. Sometimes we need people who can refer us out to other people or provide sage advice.”

Lastly, pay attention to etiquette. Not everyone is in the same headspace about what is safe. Offer up various ways to connect, and then be patient.

“If they're working from home, they’re probably juggling a lot,” she says.

Shelton and her colleagues have a full slate of virtual events planned for the spring. For more information, go to careerservices.richmond.edu.