Networking is one of the most important things you can do to advance your professional career. As you lay your foundations and build experience, it is crucial to have mentors, supporters, and others who will help you move forward and have the career you desire. While credentials and experience are important, you can imagine many other people besides you will have similar backgrounds. That’s where your network comes into play, and in academia, it is no different.
As you can imagine, networking has had to change shape during the pandemic. A lot of that relationship building and those informal conversations that might happen on the sidelines of conferences or over a meal were seriously curtailed during COVID-19, leaving many folks reasonably wondering how they can continue to meet people and make new connections while they were stuck at home.
However, it is still possible. And in some important ways it has become easier, especially for those with smaller networks to begin with or without the financial resources necessary to attend large academic conferences or events, especially those faraway from home. Academic conferences, meetups, and seminars have all shifted online during the pandemic, making accessibility virtually barrier-free this past year. This is a great way to meet people you are looking to build a relationship with, and while it might not happen during the event itself, it is easy to follow up with them over email to schedule a one-to-one meeting. It might not be the same as meeting them in-person, but for now, it is a great substitute that still allows you to meet new people and help you create a network that will be invaluable to you as you embark on your career.
This might seem obvious, but another strategy is to reach out to folks directly who you’d like to speak with about your career, dissertation, research, or whichever other topics you want. Mostly, people respond relatively quickly and are more than happy to speak with you. I’ve found many other scholars to be extremely generous with their time and entertain my questions. This has been very useful, and I’ve been able to do it on a larger scale than I think I would have been able to otherwise pre-pandemic.
Even during the ongoing uncertainty, it’s important to keep working towards the career you want for yourself. Networking is pivotal for that, so I would encourage you to adapt to its online form while we continue to spend most of our time at home. It will only benefit you moving forward!