One of the largest shifts in the past year has been how we interact with others in a professional environment. Where we used to meet recruiters at career fairs, these interactions have been shifted to online chat rooms. Shaking hands with your interviewer now occurs through eye contact over Zoom. Small talk has shifted to text messages or brief breakout rooms, and relocating for a job now means working from the couch instead of your desk. So what are the new standards for communication? How do you build effective relationships and connections in the professional virtual environment? Below I am going to share what has worked well (and what has not!) in this past year of virtual life as it relates to internships and networking.

#1. Career Fairs and Networking

  • Do: STILL give your elevator pitch even if the career fair or networking event is over direct message. I copy-pasted my short introduction (name, major, involvements, opportunities of interest) and then immediately put it in the chat upon entrance to the virtual “booth”. 
  • Don’t: Start the conversation with “hi” or “hello” as this is a waste of your time and the recruiter’s time, get to the point and make a great first impression. After the event ends, do not forget to follow up with a thank you over email or through a LinkedIn message. 

#2. Interviewing

  • Do: Spend time making sure that your lighting, audio, camera angle, and background are put together and professional. One thing I found helpful is doing a test run over Zoom with a friend, they can help you with your online presence and give useful feedback before the real thing.
  • Don’t: Assume everything will go perfectly! One thing we’ve learned since going virtual is that there WILL be technical difficulties. Be prepared to email the recruiter or interviewer in case of an emergency, move locations due to wifi issues, or potentially do a phone call instead of video as a last resort. Preparation is everything here.

#3. Informal Interviews and Networking

  • Do: Ask for virtual coffee chats and opportunities to connect one-on-one with industry professionals and recruiters! It is easier than ever for people to find time on their calendar for a quick chat with you, but to access them you have to put yourself out there and ask. 
  • Don’t: Go to virtual coffee chats unprepared or without purpose. Do your research on the company, the role, and come prepared to ask questions as well as speak to your own background and strengths. 

#4. On the Job

  • Do: Put your best foot forward and stay engaged! Although things are virtual you can still do your best to join calls early, keep your camera on, and ask questions. 
  • Don’t: Underestimate the value of communication. Remember that your manager can’t see you and they may not know what you are working on. Send a quick message to keep them in the loop or schedule a weekly meeting to maintain an open line of communication. 

I hope these tips and tricks help some with navigating the virtual environment, they are not the end all be all but a good start to a strong online presence. Good luck with everything and fight on!

Miranda Jernberg

Miranda Jernberg

MAJOR: Chemical Engineering YEAR: Class of 2021 HOMETOWN: Aurora, Colorado PRONOUNS: she/her/hers INSTA: @_mirandajay On campus, I am involved with Greek Life, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and USC's Latin fusion dance team called Break on 2.