The Covid-19 pandemic has affected students like you around the globe and erased any opportunity to network with others in the same way you might have previously.
This can be a frustrating time, since many students have had to postpone or modify graduation celebrations, cancel summer travel plans or campus visits, and plan on attending school virtually.
Especially if you are planning for your academic and professional future, you might be wondering how you can continue the work of networking to prepare for college applications and learn during these socially-distant times.
Of course, the role and tone of networking has changed right now, since so many people are going through tough times. Networking can feel calloused when so many people are suffering or worried about health, safety, their economic situation, and the state of the world.
So, here are some tips to help you continue networking (which is really just another word for connecting with others) amid socially-distant times. The great news is: you can still find ways to successfully connect authentically and thoughtfully.
Commit to checking in (with yourself and others) frequently.
The best way to know if you and your contacts are up for networking is to frequently check in. Each day, connect with yourself by journaling, meditating, and reflecting on how you are feeling and what you’re personally going through. Try to take stock of lessons you’re learning and lessons you’d still like to learn during this challenging time in our history.
If you are not feeling well, either mentally or physically, today might not be the best day to network. However, if you are feeling as if connection will bring you joy and fulfillment, proceed with some socially distant networking.
When you know you’d like to connect with someone, either via phone, email, text, or social media, you should also check in with that person before asking them to connect with you on an academic or professional level.
You never know, especially during these challenging times, what people are going through; so err on the side of caution.
Prioritize health and safety, and lead with warmth.
In fact, by erring on the side of caution, you will be prioritizing health and safety before work relationships. People need to feel warmth from others right now, so take extra care to be cognizant of others’ feelings and health during this time.
Also take care to prioritize health and safety by following your county, state, province, and/or nation’s guidelines, avoiding direct contact with anyone not in your personal bubble, and wearing a mask whenever you’re out in public. Avoid asking anyone to meet up in person if they are not comfortable or if guidelines suggest that would not be a safe option.
Attend virtual events and webinars.
A great way to connect with others and learn new skills and information is by attending virtual events and webinars. Various organizations are holding virtual meetings, classes, and workshops to help students and aspiring professionals like you gain more knowledge and connect with others.
You’d be surprised just how many online resources available to learn about essentially any subject, often for free. This is a perfect time to prioritize topics you have wanted to learn about but haven’t had time or to dive deeper into subjects you already know you love discussing.
NSHSS is now offering a variety of webinars and virtual events to help members stay connected with each other and their academic goals. Also, keep checking the website to see the status of future NSHSS networking events as situations progress and, hopefully, a decline in Covid cases allows us to meet in person.
Reconnect with past collaborators.
In terms of networking, this time provides a great opportunity to connect with past contacts. Go through your emails and communications to find out who you’ve lost contact with and might want to reach out to during these times.
Start with a simple check in and ‘hello,’ and see where that takes you. Remember to lead with warmth. You could make someone’s day infinitely brighter by reaching out.
Then, this might be the perfect time to create a system for maintaining the contact information of all your networking contacts, including email, phone number, and a record of when you last spoke. This list will come in handy as you continue networking now and in the future.
Utilize your resources.
Since everyone is operating within the limits of social distancing at the same time, your various resources are likely creating ways for you to connect safely with others as well.
For example, schools might be organizing virtual meet-ups, churches are holding virtual services, various educational organizations are holding webinars, fitness instructors are offering free at-home workouts, etc.
Think about ways you gained value from the community when you could attend events in person and see if those organizations or groups are offering ways to stay connected during these challenging times.
For many, social media remains a resource. If you have fun creating content on social media, perhaps that will be a great way to connect with others as well.
Find ways to be of service.
Many non-profit organizations are still in need of volunteers and are accepting them, usually through digital forms of volunteering or socially distant and safe volunteering in person.
Check with your local food bank and other charitable organizations to see if they need your help. So many people are struggling during this time, so if you have the energy and ability to offer aid to others, this could be a great way to network and also positively impact your community.
Give grace to yourself and others.
However, while you’re pursuing all this virtual networking, remember to give yourself grace and to be graceful with others. Don’t overdo it, and give yourself time to just relax and breathe.
Remember that you can’t do everything right now, and that’s okay. This time will be a great opportunity for you to keep planning for the future, feeding your mind and soul, and taking stock of what is important to you.
One day, you will not have to remain so socially distant from loved ones, friends, and collaborators; so consider this time a rare chance to thoughtfully build foundations for the future without as many distractions as you might normally have. And remember that time will heal all wounds.