A crucial part of a college education has become considerably more complicated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. College years are supposed to be used for learning and exploring new things as well as getting to know new people who will be your cohort throughout your career. Networking in college usually takes place over shared projects, social gatherings, and clubs and organizations, so how can you adapt these practices to fit the age of social distancing and remote learning?
Understanding the Importance of College Networking
Eighty-five percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are college fraternity members. Greek students report greater happiness and engagement at work, but that’s not the only benefit of belonging to an organization. Many higher-level jobs require higher than average social skills, which many students learn from participation in clubs and societies.
Networking provides an estimated 70 percent of opportunities in your career, and seven in ten people who plan to stay in their current position for at least five years report having the help of a mentor.
The people you meet in college are going to advance through their careers in tandem with you, and building that network earlier rather than later will provide you better opportunities in your career as well as the ability to help your peers with theirs.
How Networking Works When College Goes Remote
While some campuses are resuming in-person learning, many are shutting down and going remote again just a few days into the semester. Sixty-nine percent of students have reported losing access to their peers, classmates, and social network.
For social groups, many colleges and universities are offering virtual access to meet up with peers. At Duke University, students created a Facebook group after classes moved online last semester. Students can use groups and other meetup opportunities to build friendships with classmates based on mutual interests. Just understand that everyone is struggling and that you will have to make an effort to show interest in someone’s life because it may not always be apparent over digital communication.
When it comes to remote classes, you can still make connections with other students through shared study or group projects. A great way to keep track of the people you meet is to add them on LinkedIn, which will stay with you throughout your career.
It is up to you to find opportunities or to make them if they aren’t available.
Networking Matters, Even When Times Are Tough
Remember that everyone is in the same situation as you. Having a network to rely on can help you make choices about career paths, internships, and even life changes. Take every opportunity you can to reach out and build those connections now regardless of how difficult it may be. It can be tempting to declare this year a mulligan and decide you will start over when things return to normal, but you will find in your life that turmoil is normal, and those who learn to keep moving through it are the ones who have the greatest success in life and in their careers.