Networking Nuances in a Virtual Environment
Networking. Depending on your intestinal fortitude, that word will either strike fear or spark joy. Regardless of your feeling, this critical activity has moved beyond cocktail parties full of strange people with whom you feel forced to mingle and into a square on your computer screen. As a consummate connector, I’ve discovered some interesting networking nuances over the last year.
Geography is completely irrelevant: While some lament the inability to build relationships in a virtual world, I relish the many connections I’ve made — most of which would not have happened had the world not gone virtual. I’ve successfully built new relationships with people in New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and London. In one afternoon, I can talk with a partner in Glasgow and discuss alumni job opportunities with someone in Brooklyn. You simply can’t attend multiple meetings in a day when there’s a transatlantic trip in between. (Unless you’re Wonder Woman and take the invisible jet.)
Building compelling connections across geographical borders is quite possible; just think of all the places you can visit to see people in your newly expanded network.
People tirelessly rise to the challenge: In times of crisis, such as we’ve been experiencing since the beginning of 2020, people are more than willing to help. When PPE was scarce last spring, Alexandra Amrami of PCS Wireless offered PPE at cost to PCOM so that our students, faculty, and physicians could be protected. Further, the foundation at PCS made a charitable donation to our Student Emergency Fund. The company’s generosity was repeated for numerous non-profits.
I was fortunate enough to cement other relationships to help the PCOM community and thank Jacqueline Linder, founder and former CEO at Lunchbots, for our “back to campus” lunchboxes, and Heather Waibel, founder of Welnys, for working to bring health and wellness content — available 24/7 — to our students and employees.
No matter the occasion, whether in person or virtual, people continue to help their fellow humans.
Action has been accelerated: Pre-pandemic, trying to construct any of these partnerships would likely have taken months, with multiple in-person meetings, email exchanges, phone discussions, and proposals. Now, we move from introductory Zoom to action in a fraction of the time.
Alix Amrami from PCS and I talked once via Zoom and launched into action with a flurry of emails. Heather Waibel and I have only talked on the phone. Cat Colella-Graham, founder of Cheer Partners, and I went from a single phone call to a series of epic partnerships.
Even though meeting in person wasn’t an option, we’ve managed to push ahead and take thoughtful and decisive action to advance strategic goals.
My fervent hope is that returning to in-person conversations doesn’t mean the end of virtual networking.