8 Networking Tips in a Socially Distanced Environment

Aug. 5, 2021

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How can you effectively network as a college student in a socially distanced environment?

To help university students navigate networking from their computers, we asked career coaches and Eller College alumni this question for their best advice. From attending virtual networking events to joining alumni associations, there are several tips that may help you effectively network as a college student in the current job market. 

Here are eight tips for networking in a socially distanced environment:

  • Attend Virtual Networking Events

  • Connect With Fellow Alumni

  • Build Rapport First

  • Leverage University Career Services

  • Find Industry-Specific Organizations

  • Be Active on Social Media

  • Join Your Alumni Association

  • Create Networking Goals


Attend Virtual Networking Events

We recently held career panels as part of our 100-level Language and Context of Business course. One of the common recommendations we received from our alumni panelists was to utilize your alumni networks as much as possible. With more than 1,000 graduating Eller students each May across all of our majors, the breadth and depth of our alumni network is strong and diverse. We encourage students to connect to our alumni that they meet through our various engagements organized through the college, such as career panels, class speakers, club visits, career fairs, study treks and company visits. 

The pandemic has increased our students’ ability to connect with alumni across the globe without the barriers of location and an increased comfort level with virtual meeting platforms. As a college, we have been able to engage with more of our alumni in meaningful ways, connecting them to more students than we have in person. We encourage students to start with more recent alumni as they are often more responsive, having more recently gone through their own student experience. We discourage directly asking for a job or internship right out of the gate. Networking is a shared process with a mutual exchange of resources, and it takes time and patience to build trust.

Sarah Diaz ’05 BSBA (Marketing), Assistant Dean of Career and Professional Development, Undergraduate Department, at the Eller College of Management

Connect With Fellow Alumni

When I started my job search at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, I needed to find a way to stand out amongst other students who had to make the transition online. The best way for me to make those connections in a world that suddenly separated by at least six feet was to use the Bear Down Network. It’s like LinkedIn, but everyone is a Wildcat. Go to the directory tab of the website and then search for the job you hope to have someday. You will see a list of profiles that match your search, so you can start messaging people with the questions you have or the advice you need. I got a lot more success using this platform than LinkedIn.

Brenna Doyle ’21 BS (Retailing Consumer Sciences), Business Administration minor, Product Specialist at Paradox

Build Rapport First

With experience on both sides of networking, I have seen people forget to build rapport and jump into expectations. Remember, networking is a two-way relationship and has to be beneficial for both parties involved. Don't hesitate to reach out to professionals pursuing careers of your choice. Many people are happy to share their experiences and guide you through your journey. Finally, be persistent and start meaningful conversations. 

Rahul Mitra ’21 MBA, ’21 MS MIS, Business Intel Engineer Intern at Amazon

Leverage University Career Services

As a college student, you have so many opportunities to connect and expand your network. Although it is more difficult in a socially distanced environment, there are still many ways to do so with the help of your university’s career services department. Utilize the college's job boards for events that interest you. Schedule job shadows and virtual meetings to expand your connections and build your network. Overall, just get yourself out there. Fill your calendar with productive activities that will help you to connect with more individuals and grow your network. Don’t be afraid. People are willing to connect and help college students一especially fellow alumni.

Alison Stine ’13 BSBA (Finance), Founder, Stine Wealth Management

Find Industry-Specific Organizations

LinkedIn is a great resource, but more and more virtual events are being held through diverse organizations. I would look into joining an organization that caters to your career interests and see if they have virtual events or members in the field you are looking to join. When reaching out to someone, it’s always better to have something in common. The virtual environment also gives you time to come to events prepared with knowledge of industry topics so you can better connect with business professionals. 

Evan Reed ’14 BSBA (Marketing), Category Development Associate Manager at The Wonderful Company

Be Active on Social Media

In a socially distant world, social media (specifically LinkedIn) is your best place to network. Just this past year, I have made many new friends and industry connections that have turned into in-person meetups or hour-long phone calls一simply because this is a new landscape that everyone is trying to navigate.

Megan Hari ’14 BSBA (Marketing), Director of Marketing at Swoon

Join Your Alumni Association

Some organizations have continued to offer networking opportunities during the pandemic, such as alumni associations. For example, the Bear Down Network provides opportunities to make connections that can strengthen your career from a community of fellow University of Arizona grads. The platform is available as an app, making it even easier to meet new people in your industry. With any platform, make sure you complete your profile to connect with others in your field.                                                  

Brian Greenberg ’00 BSBA (Marketing and Entrepreneurship), CEO, Insurist

Create Networking Goals

Get clear on your networking objectives. Ask yourself, “What do I want out of this event? How can I help the people I meet?” By knowing what you want out of the event and by having ideas on how you can potentially help people, your goals can help drive meaningful, two-way conversations. If half the battle of a networking event is just showing up, then the other half of the event is knowing what you want to gain from the experience. 

Brett Farmiloe, ’06 BSBA (Accounting), CEO, Markitors

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