Networking 101: Making Career Connections from Your Couch

After a long search and countless interviews, I secured my summer position as an intern at BAERING. I was looking forward to a summer working at a public relations firm and getting a taste of agency life. Then, as the COVID-19 pandemic began to upend everyday life and sent me home to take my finals on the couch, I began to wonder what would become of my internship. Luckily, the position wasn’t cancelled. However, it was moved to a remote status with no idea if I’d ever step foot in the office. Just as the pandemic ripped away the last months I would have spent with graduating seniors and enjoying the end of my junior year, I had to come to terms with the fact that I wasn’t going to have the in-person industry experience I craved this summer. I’ve made it work, thanks to great coworkers and a resourceful attitude, but it was far from what I expected. Here are a few tips that I learned along the way:

KEEP A ROUTINE – Fake it ‘till you make it

I anticipated driving to Raleigh each morning this summer. Instead, my only commute is downstairs for breakfast. Then I return to my bedroom to start the daily grind. This lack of structure makes it easy to fall out of any sort of routine that is critical for my productivity. While interning remotely I’ve found it beneficial to keep as much of the same routine that I would have if I was going into the office every morning. I work at my desk instead of my bed or couch, try to set my phone away, and actually wear dress pants (not just a dress shirt and boxers). I try to clock in, clock out, and take my lunch break at the same time every day, so I have a structured schedule. I Even put my coffee in a thermos like I would if I were about to hop in the car. This helps provide some level of normalcy to the job on a daily basis.

START A CONVERSATION – Just say Hi!  

As a naturally social person, it’s been hard to not have the random chit chat and water cooler banter that comes with being in the office. Especially because these informal conversations can help build legitimate and personal relationships with your peers that will improve your experience and encourage productivity. In my first week as an intern, I was able to participate in a morning coffee talk as well as a happy hour – both over Zoom, of course. While these extra efforts of communication might seem daunting, getting to know your coworkers as people, and not just professionals, will be helpful in the long run as relationships like these can ultimately lead to future jobs or connections at highly desirable companies.

STAY IN THE KNOW – Don’t check-out

During my internship, I wanted to learn as much as possible. But in my bedroom, it’s easy to feel disconnected from the day-to-day operations of the company that do not directly relate to my responsibilities. Looking at your company’s website, checking in on Slack channels, and asking to sit in on Zoom calls is a great way to stay informed and find out if you want to work for a company in this field after college. Stay plugged in and find ways to stay engaged in the conversation. You may be surprised at what you learn and what you can contribute!

MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR TIME FACE-TO-FACE – Even though it’s virtual

Some days I have a lot of meetings. Other days I may not see the (digital) face of any of my coworkers. Regardless of what day it is, there is always less face time than there would be in the office. When you’re interacting with your team less, each interaction matters more. So, when I do get on a call, I always make sure I’m personable and contribute to the conversation. While a Zoom call will never be the same as a face-to-face interaction, treating it as such will undoubtedly showcase your confidence and personality.

TALK TO YOUR FRIENDS – They’re the in same boat

Most years, everyone’s internship is a different experience. But this year, everyone is in the same boat. One of my roommates is working for a consulting firm, the other for an app startup, and I’m at BAERING. However, all of us work from home and makeshift our bedroom into an office every morning. While working remotely is far from ideal, we’re not going through these challenges alone. Chances are, most of your college friends are asking the same questions: How do I stay productive outside of the office? How do I make valuable connections? How can I make sure I learn something from this experience?

Take advantage of this shared experience and find out what your friends have been doing to stay motivated in this uncharted territory.

SO, YOU’RE AT HOME – Take advantage of it

Most of the time it helps to try to recreate your office experience, but there’s nothing wrong with taking advantage of the comfort of your own home – at least every once in a while. Working from home allows you to actually whip-up real food during your lunch break, take a stroll in the park in-between projects, or even set up shop outside if you need a change of scenery. For most students, your internship will be entirely remote. As long as it’s not hurting your productivity, it’s ok not to treat every second of the day like a shift at the office. Sometimes to stay focused and motivated, it’s important to acknowledge that this experience is difficult, challenging and well, just plain weird.

I hoped after my summer internship, I’d have a feeling for what working at a PR agency was like. And in some ways, I have. But it’s also been during one of most unpredictable and chaotic times in our country’s history, and I know whatever job I get after college will be a fundamentally different experience than my “pandemic internship”. But this summer has been far from a waste. I’ve learned invaluable skills, even if they’re not what I expected. Being forced to network and grow relationships with coworkers without meeting them in person makes you resourceful. It makes you innovative. Many of the traditional ways to make an impression and stay productive have disappeared. But after this summer, furthering my professional career in a setting where I can actually shake my colleague’s hand and work with them face-to-face seems like it will be a walk in the park.

 

By Isaac Eugene Rosso Klakovich

BAERING Intern, Summer 2020

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