While activities involving in-person interactions, such as a career fairs, club meetings, networking events, and of course, classes, have ceased for the quarter, the new reality we are living in during COVID-19 provides us with some exciting opportunities to engage with people digitally. This is especially important as you begin to discern what you are looking for in a potential internship or first job after graduation. Networking with working professionals is one of the most common ways that recent graduates find full-time employment after graduation, and a large portion of networking is done digitally, even when normal campus operations are in full swing. Here are some strategies for who to reach out to and how:
Think back to all of the individuals with whom you have crossed paths throughout your college career, and which people stand out the most. Former work or internship supervisors, former fellow interns, and even classmates are great initial points of contact. Additionally, current or past professors, teaching assistants, and research P.I.’s make great contacts as well. Consider creating a typed-up list or a spreadsheet of all of the contacts you have made, where they currently work, how you know them, and their email addresses if you have them. Save this document somewhere safe, and then break the list into different categories (i.e. from work, from my internship last summer, from a class I took last spring). From here, you can think about who might have insight on particular industry that you are interested in pursuing, and prioritize who to reach out to first.
Reach out to your contacts via email, with a message that reads something like, “Hello,_____, It was so great working with you last summer at_______. During this time, I’m finding myself more curious about the work you do as an Operations Specialist at McKinstry. I’m wondering if you might be willing to have a virtual meeting with me, either over the phone or on Zoom, about your work. Please let me know when you are free. Looking forward to hearing from you!” I suggest mentioning something you experienced together, or something you learned from that person. To save time, you can also created a template for outreach emails (like the aforementioned example), and keep it saved as a drafted email.
To ensure this process is most helpful and leads to more connections, consider asking the individual, during your conversation, what other individuals they might know that have insight on something you are specifically interested in. You will see that previous connections can lead to future connections!
Tools – LinkedIn and Other Resources
One of the most powerful (and free) online tools you have at your disposal at this time is LinkedIn. Companies and employers, just like professionals, have LinkedIn profiles. If you visit a company’s profile on LinkedIn – let’s say Microsoft, for example – and click on the “People” tab, you will see the breakdown of where different employees have studied, including which current employees have attended UW. Consider this a way to find alumni who would make the most valuable connections. By browsing different alumni profiles, you can also learn about where they started their careers after graduation from UW – oftentimes, their current employer was not their first, after graduation. Browsing alumni profiles can also help you discover companies you may not have been familiar with previously, thus giving you more ideas of where to apply for a job or internship.
Finally, the Huskies@Work Program can connect you with a UW alum directly. Apply by April 12 for the change to build a relationship with a fellow Husky.