As the pandemic continues to force us to adapt to this new virtual world, networking continues to be a very important activity while being a part of an MBA program. Outside of classes and studying, an MBA student spends a lot of time attending info sessions and networking events with a variety of companies that are actively recruiting, but what is an MBA student supposed to do when you can’t shake someone’s hand and exchange business cards? How is an MBA student supposed to go through recruiting when companies aren’t actively recruiting because of an uncertain economy?
The best way that I have found to network while living in a virtual world is through coffee talks and informational interviews. So what are these two forms of networking? A coffee talk is a quick chat with someone who works for a company that you are interested in working for. These coffee chats are casual conversations that primarily consist of small talk and discussions on the prospective company. Think of these chats as a first date between a company and yourself. You are both trying to get a better understanding of what each other is about. You are trying to learn what it’s like to work at that company, and they are trying to get to know you as a person and what you would be like as an employee. Since coffee chats are primarily done in coffee shops, you are going to have to have them now over the phone or a video call service.
Informational interviews are a little bit different. Don’t get fooled by the name. You are not getting interviewed during informational interviews. In fact, you are the one that is going to be asking the questions. How awesome is that?! During informational interviews, make sure to start with a quick background of yourself and then proceed to ask questions. The questions should be like “what does a regular day look like for you?” and “what goals do you have for the brands you are working on?” Make sure to comment on the answers that they are giving you, so it is not just question, answer, question, answer. They are also trying to get to know you during an informational interview! Please keep both coffee chats and informational interviews to no more than 30 minutes because you want to be respectful of their time.
So how do you set up informational interviews and coffee chats in a virtual world?
There are a variety of ways to set these up. After virtual info sessions and networking events, representatives from companies will usually pass along their emails to the group. Shoot them an email telling them you would love to learn more about their company and ask if you can set up a time for a coffee chat or informational interview. Another option is LinkedIn. If you are interested in a company, go to their LinkedIn page and click on their “People” tab. Here you can filter people who work at that company by geographic location, department they work in, etc. Try to connect with someone who works in the department you would like to work for, and if they accept your request, message them saying you would like to learn more about the company and ask if you can set up a time for a coffee chat or informational interview. Hopefully this helps you build your network, even during a global pandemic!