Yes, we're supposed to network when the times are good, but how about when the times are... totally uncertain?
As I write this, the world is responding to the COVID-19 crisis, in a time totally replete with uncertainty. Schools, communities, businesses, all kinds of work - all impacted. It’s hard to imagine what things will look like 4 weeks from now. I know for me, the simmer of unease is coming from the not-knowing.
That not-knowing is a reason many people don’t reach out to connect.
I don’t know what I’d say
I don’t know if anyone wants to hear about how uncertain I feel about my future
I don’t know if anyone can help me
When I study and coach people who have had their careers disrupted and interrupted, I see a big difference between those who are waiting until they feel strong to reach out, and those who use reaching out as a way of gaining strength. That latter group reaps the benefit of human connection, empathy, resourcefulness and good will.
They also benefit from the inner work involved in planning for good conversations. I always guide people to prepare for how they want to approach a professional conversation with some reflection:
How am I telling the story of where I am now?
How do I express my current thoughts about what could be me next for me?
What do I really need right now?
This isn’t to say that the exercise of reaching out to connect when you’re uncertain of your place in the world isn’t nerve-racking; it certainly is. I’ve learned that we can manage those nerves with thoughtful planning, by considering what our own offer can be (even a kind, honest ear), and by remembering and accepting that all of us have those times in our lives where we need a boost. One of the silver linings I’m noticing about the times we’re in is how common our experiences really are.
With so many of us working from home right now, social connection is going to be more important than ever. I'm earning a few hours a week back from commuting while all my work is remote, and I plan to use some of that time to strengthen relationships, reconnect with old friends and colleagues, and make time for the investment in new connections.
I’m guiding my clients, students and even friends to do that same. How about making a short list of 2-3 people you want to talk to as a starting point and sending a few emails this week? Schedule video or phone calls to balance our collective need for social distancing with our human need for real connection.
Need ideas of how to get ready for these conversations? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org