Networking online: how the Weston Career Center has adapted to a virtual world

This post was written by Jill Jarret, an event and program coordinator for the Weston Career Center

Embracing the virtual event space

This fall, the Weston Career Center did something we’ve never done before: We delivered multiple signature networking events, virtually. Back in March, when our team realized we would be working in a virtual environment for the foreseeable future, we quickly started researching ways to provide students with safe opportunities to connect with employers and alums in a worthwhile way.

“We wanted to create events where students could have meaningful conversations that would create valuable connections both now and in the future,” said Jen Whitten stated, associate dean and director of the WCC. 

Hidden benefits

One of the benefits of moving to a virtual event environment was being able to invite employers who wouldn’t normally attend an in-person event. This meant having companies like Microsoft and Google attend our MBA Summit event, in addition to more alumni participants from across the globe for all events. We know our alumni want to give back, but they are often unable to spend the time or money to physically come to campus. Hosting virtual events provided a great opportunity for alums to connect with students from the comfort of their own homes or offices.

“[We were] impressed by Olin’s organization and ability to turn a tough recruiting challenge into what seemed like a great touchpoint! Especially for firms that don’t make the trip to campus, I think this setup could be a really helpful ongoing event,” said Carly Anderson from General Mills, LA ’09, MBA ’13.

Supporting international students

While transiting to a virtual environment presented a new challenge, so did having a large number of students physically based in Asia. We wanted to create events that would be accessible and valuable for all our specialized masters’ students, regardless of where in the world they live. To meet this challenge, we created two Specialized Masters Summit events—one focused on students interested in working in Asia, which was held in Mandarin Chinese, and the other for students interested in working in the United States.

Di Lu, our Shanghai-based business development lead, was instrumental in our Asia-focused event, ensuring the event took place at a time that would work well for all students, and securing alumni from 18 companies to participate.

Springing ahead

Although we were unsure how students would respond to this “new normal,” we were pleasantly surprised by their positivity and embrace of virtual networking. Many students, when faced with video issues in the event platform, quickly provided employers with Zoom links to ensure quality conversations.

For our internal event planning team, we used Microsoft Teams to stay connected in real time during the event, and for our Specialized Masters Summit US event, also had a staff member monitoring a WeChat group for the event to ensure we could address student questions as quickly as possible.

While the majority of feedback from students, company representatives and alumni was positive, we are actively working through the pain points (e.g., video connectivity issues, student-to-company representative ratio) to ensure our spring events are set up to leverage the technology in a way that will ensure an even better experience for all involved, no matter where in the world they are.

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