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Ask a Recruiter: How Can I Make the Most of Virtual Networking During the Pandemic?

Harness the socially distant reality

People on a Zoom call
Photo courtesy of Chris Montgomery

This article is part of InHerSight's Working During Coronavirus series. As the coronavirus pandemic continues, find helpful advice here on working remotely, job hunting remotely, dealing with anxiety and stress, and staying safe at work if you have to be on-site.

This article is part of InHerSight's Ask a Recruiter series. We ask recruiters from companies big and small to answer questions about job hunting, company culture, and more.

What’s your elevator pitch? 

Hi! I’m Marjorie Kalomeris, a tech recruiter and a career coach for women of color. I spent the first six years of my career in recruiting at LinkedIn, where I learned the art of negotiating offers from the best of the best in Silicon Valley. I have since relocated to Europe and have lived in both Ireland and the Netherlands. I’ve hired hundreds of people to work in tech. I now work for an Andreessen-Horowitz-backed Series D scaleup in Amsterdam called Optimizely. I started my own side-hustle this year, MK Career Coaching, since I’m extremely passionate about helping women of color get a foot in the door and find their dream job from anywhere in the world!

Why is it important to continue networking during the pandemic?

Networking is the single most important way (and quickest way) people advance in their careers. Women in business need to be networking now more than ever, especially women of color. It has been a difficult yet incredible year—candidates are actively seeking out companies with strong commitments made in response to the Black Lives Matter movement—not weak promises, but some real investments and structural change. (Hint: Check the company’s executive team and board members to see if they’re putting this into action or if their promises are simply lip service!) Real structural change is now a prerequisite for many candidates, especially candidates of color.

Read more: How Do You Know If a Company Truly Embraces Diversity?

Where does virtual networking happen? Besides being online, how does it differ from in-person networking?

LinkedIn is your best friend when it comes to online networking! It’s great because not only job seekers come to LinkedIn—many executives and mid-career folks start their day there. You can make your LinkedIn feed extremely relevant for you by training the algorithm and being intentional about the hashtags you follow. There are many more specific online platforms as well; Elpha is a great platform for joining conversations with ambitious women in tech, and Facebook has a ton of groups for specific areas and cities (ie., women in tech, women in sales, women in STEM, etc.).

Are there any steps you need to take before you start networking online? 

Definitely make sure you have a warm, inviting headshot. It can be taken on your phone, against a colored but textured background (think: brick, the outside of your house or a building, etc.). Make sure it’s friendly and inviting! Especially these days, it will be a factor in people deciding whether or not they want to engage with you further. Make sure your LinkedIn is completed (ideally to All-Star completion level). Your headline and About section are the first things people see, your introduction to the professional world. Some questions to answer in the About section are: Who am I? What do I care about? What am I working toward?

Read more: 6 Ideas for Picking a LinkedIn Cover Photo

Most women don’t have a lot of free time during the pandemic. What are some of the ways you can start to make connections without it becoming a second job? 

Joining interest groups can be a great way to network intentionally. This does not need to be hobby-related, there are actually a ton of career-focused interest groups on LinkedIn and Facebook. Elpha is great as you’ll essentially see lots of women helping other women in tech. Enough participation in these groups can lead to personal 1:1 connections and conversations that can help move your career in a direction you may not have even expected!

Read more: The Right Subject Line for a Networking Email Makes All the Difference

What are some things you should not do when networking online? 

Do not ask for too much of a time commitment up front. Time is everyone’s most valuable resource, and I know I’m hesitant to commit too much up front before I know how aligned a commitment will be for me and my business. Do not ask to “pick someone’s brain” or for a generic informational interview. Make your ask as specific as possible. Are you looking to learn more about a specific role or department that they’re in? Are you looking for advice? To learn more about the company culture (what it’s really like)? Once you’ve spoken to that person on the phone and built up some rapport, then you can ask about potential referrals or introductions to other folks who may be helpful for your job search. 

Diversifying networks is so important to diversifying companies and teams. What are a few things we can all do, whether or not we’re job searching, to ensure that happens? 

Absolutely—now with how connected we’ve become, there is no excuse for not diversifying your professional network! I think it’s valuable to connect with people from different backgrounds, ethnicities, upbringings, etc. as it will only broaden your learnings and help you grow as a professional. A diverse network will really widen out your perceived realm of possibility. There could be another career path, industry or location out there you hadn’t previously considered that could open up other, more aligned options for you.

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The novel coronavirus has changed the way we live, work, and job hunt for the time being. Explore our resources about creating successful work and home lives amid the pandemic.