Virtual Networking

by Annmarie Rice

The global COVID-19 pandemic has brought its own share of challenges but has also given this cohort an added skill: improving our confidence in a virtual world. This past January, members of the MBA-SBP cohort were given the incredible opportunity to work on our virtual networking skills. As an introvert myself, the networking skill has not come easily and adding the extra layer of a virtual experience brought an added challenge of standing out on Zoom.

To give each of us the most rewarding experience, an initial meeting was set to discuss networking strategies. From this session, I learned that the foundation of successful networking consists of understanding your audience, adjusting a thirty-second introduction to fit different audiences, and following up with people you met in a meaningful way. Understanding the event audience is crucial with networking because your background and experiences fluctuate in relative importance based on who you are meeting. Equally important is boiling down the most relevant information about yourself to a memorable thirty-second introduction. Finally, to grow your network in a meaningful way, it is vital to follow-up with those you meet. The follow-ups should be individualized and include something specific to each relationship to make a successful bond.

We were then given a week to prepare for a networking practice event and I certainly did need some practice! The preparation was almost cathartic while I reminisced about previous education, work experience, and personal anecdotes; boiling each down to the “most relevant” took time. Logging onto Zoom that Friday morning was intimidating at first, but we were fortunate to have a supporting group of classmates, industry professionals, and professors. Each professional or professor acted in a different capacity, giving us practice for job fairs, sustainability events, and even networking with Duquesne alumni. In each station, I felt myself becoming more confident with the different introductions and the conversations. Every volunteer gave advice that will help me grow and I was able to test those results in real time in the next breakout room. It was also a joy to learn even more from my fellow cohort members, each one bringing a different strength in networking, which added an extra learning level to this event. Though I didn’t feel like a networking expert when leaving the Zoom session, I felt much more comfortable with my introduction and how to ask meaningful questions to continue the conversation.

Overall, the networking practice was an enjoyable experience. I was able to learn a lot about myself, my cohort members, and tips for networking in the future. I’m very much looking forward to the next opportunity to meet new people and continue honing this new skill! Thank you again to all the faculty and volunteers that made this event so successful!