It might be awhile before career fairs and networking events enter the mainstream again. Typically, career fairs can go on for a full business day and involve multiple companies and vendors setting up booths to advertise their company, but also to give off a good image and public persona. Networking events typically happen at night and involve restaurants and a good ambiance. They are social gatherings with some professionalism mixed in and centered around a certain theme.
Due to Covid-19, there’s no saying when these types of close human contact will be back again and recruiters everywhere will have to settle with what has become normative behavior—checking someone’s LinkedIn, going through online resumes, and conducting their searches virtually. This is what we have become accustomed to, especially in much of the U.S. job market, and while it is a fairly efficient and pragmatic way of doing business and finding good candidates, we should also wonder if there are some limitations to strictly online approaches.
How Networking Events Changes amid Covid-19
Networking events are being held online in virtual Zoom conferences nowadays. The online atmosphere has definitely changed the way people are communicating and you can’t exactly share the experience of appetizers through an online window. While innovative in its approach of gathering multiple people across time zones for online networking meet up, we should stop to wonder if these online events are as effective as the traditional thing where we get dressed up and go in person.
One aspect of the more traditional kind of networking event is that the first impression given by a young professional who is looking to break into a new industry can be an invaluable moment. Oftentimes it can be difficult to show recruiters how much we want jobs when we are operating in an online environment and space can be filled with ambiguity as we email hiring managers back and forth trying to decode their language and make sense of their personalities.
Networking events, for what they are worth, are also strategic occasions. They usually happen at specific times of the year when budgeting allows for it, or a major venue is willing to host a specific organization making it a somewhat fancy occasion. For young professionals, there isn’t a better time to be taken seriously than talking to a senior manager who is looking to unwind at a networking event. Something happens when we meet people in these social environments—we start to talk about things we wouldn’t normally talk about during the working day when we are busy with other tasks and responsibilities. This really opens up the playing field for candidates to show off their worth in a way that is sometimes restricted on a videoconference.
Alice Walton, A Senior Contributor for Forbes, also mentions with respect to talking to higher ups, “…of course, if your boss is one for having a martini at lunch, take advantage of it.” Similarly, at a networking event, it can be a great time to meet executives who are normally stressed out during their working hours. Catching them at a networking event could prove to make a lasting connection that might not get you your dream job, but perhaps introduces you to another opportunity that is more than sufficient. These moments in our professional careers can be exciting and empowering.
Combining the best of both worlds
Whether you’re attending a career fair where you have to dress up and act formal, or a networking event that is more relaxed—some of the goals and outcomes are the same. For example, you want to collect business cards at both events, sign your name on newsletter sheets, and then of course take the time to follow up with whoever you did meet and develop the connection.
This is perhaps the most important part of attending any of such events—what happens afterward. Indeed, combining the in-person meet and greet with a polite and well-placed follow up email is a great combination that could land you in a job role faster, and more conveniently than you would have thought possible.
Although Covid-19 has promised to disrupt this process for now, networking events will be back, and candidates and recruiters will most likely have a newfound appreciation for these types of interactions.