A little over a year ago, my university was unexpectedly shut down out of an ‘abundance of caution’ amid the emerging COVID-19 pandemic, like a multitude of other universities. Not a week had passed when we received the email that stated we would be moving to virtual learning for the rest of the semester, followed by the cancellation of almost every event I planned to attend to advance in my career.
Immediately my main reaction was intense disappointment. How was I going to follow the advice that all the professionals I’ve ever heard speak have told me to do? How was I supposed to network if it wasn’t face to face? It felt as if my career opportunities were stifled, as if I was losing out on a year’s worth of professional development.
Luckily, I decided to make the most of the situation and instead take advantage of the possibilities that being virtual affords us.I began to reach out to other PRSSA Chapters in the area for potential collaborations. The positive feedback from my fellow local Chapters demonstrated to me that networking doesn’t have to be face to face, and that I could fully leverage the situation we all found ourselves in. This past year, I’ve been able to meet amazing people from cities across California that I otherwise would have not been able to connect with (even some that are only 15 minutes away)!
Amidst everything I’ve learned since March of 2020, my experiences in virtual networking have probably been the most valuable. I’ve been able to not only to form mutually beneficial relationships and advance the start of my career, but also find friends with similar passions, all thanks to the virtual status of the world. Virtual networking isn’t likely to go anywhere for the time being, so I wanted to share some advice that helped me in my quest to expand my network.
The pivot to virtual events has provided an immense amount of opportunity to meet people from all over! We don’t have to pay for transportation or lodging, which truly makes our options endless. I could meet someone from New York or Florida from the comfort of my own home, and you can too! The richness that comes from diversifying your network is unmatched and it is a great chance to hear from different points of views and experiences. Seek out groups that revolve around topics of interest or set up virtual coffee chats with people you just want to get to know better, we’ve all been starving for social interaction anyway.
Like I stated above, my initial reaction to virtual instruction was negative. I loved being surrounded by people and being busy all day long. The shift in my point of view made all the difference in my success with virtual networking. Being positive about the situation made me want to attend virtual events and meet people that way. Sometimes we aren’t dealt the best cards, but what matters is what we do with the cards we are dealt.
Giselle Gallegos is a first-generation senior double major in Communications and American Studies at California State University, Fullerton. She is the current Chapter president for CSUF PRSSA and a public relations and social media intern for BLND PR. Outside of school, she enjoys trying out new food spots in the area and watching the latest shows on Netflix.