For young people, to develop a quality network is a real challenge. As we did on previous occasions, we recently invited a group of young Europeans to share their concerns and expectations in times of global pandemic and economic collapse. Our respondents unanimously agreed that maintaining social and professional ties is what they need most in this period of utmost uncertainty. Our young colleague Victoire de Camaret, who co-facilitated the discussion, reflects on the importance of networking in times of crisis.  

The findings of this discussion came as no surprise to us, as it is common knowledge that networking is important for everyone, not just young people. However, this craving for quality connections is exacerbated by the current pandemic. Lockdowns, curfews, travel restrictions and the generalisation of remote working have demonstrated yet again how crucial social contacts are. Never has Aristotle’s famous assertion that  “man is by nature a social animal” been so true.

The challenge that each of us faces today is to maintain a social and professional bond, whatever it may be. This implies developing a network, and above all a quality network.

The Obvious Importance of Networking

In its broadest sense, a network refers to all persons belonging to an individual’s entourage, whether personal or professional. It can be built methodically or result from chance encounters.

Not all networks have the same value. For a network to be truly beneficial, its members must give something and obtain something in return. In other words, a network only has real value if it works both ways. Once reciprocity is achieved, the benefits of a good network are considerable.

Your Network Is Your Net Worth (U.S. marketing expert Porter Gale)

Statistics show that networking is the best way to get a new job. It is generally estimated that 70% of job openings are unadvertised and that up to 80% of job vacancies are filled through personal and professional connections. These are edifying figures. But, beyond the professional opportunities it can offer, a network is also a way to meet mentors, role models and people with experience who are willing to share their knowledge and guide career decisions.

Networking can also have a real impact on personal life – which, admittedly, is very much linked to professional life. Indeed, meeting with new people and cultivating relationships is a way to keep an open mind and maintain a critical spirit. Contact with others allows us to discover new cultures, new opinions and learn from shared experiences. It is an incredible way to grow.

Finally, scientific research has demonstrated that “a higher degree of social integration [is] associated with a lower risk of psychological dysregulation”. In the words of U.S. psychiatrist Robert J. Waldinger, “the people in the strongest relationships [are] protected against chronic disease, mental illness and memory decline – even if those relationships [have] many ups and downs”. 

The Growing Need Of a Quality Network In Times of COVID-19

If quality networks were already important yesterday, they are even more valuable today in times of pandemic. This is especially true for the younger generations, who feel that they are being asked to make too big a sacrifice.

This sacrifice is first and foremost economic. Indeed, beyond its purely sanitary aspect, the pandemic has unleashed a tsunami that is shaking the foundations of the global economy and threatening the labour market. Quite legitimately, young people are wondering what the future holds for them.

A French survey conducted in May of last year among 7000 students from 14 European countries showed that one-third of final-year students and 40% of young graduates were worried about their career prospects. Young people and women are currently among those at greater risk of joblessness and poverty, the OECD says. 

When personal skills, diplomas and experience no longer seem to be sufficient, it becomes necessary to be able to rely on a network – preferably, on a quality network. Today, this is perhaps the most valuable skill to develop. 

Fighting Isolation By Networking

However, the stakes are not just professional. As stated above, a network plays an indisputable role in health and well-being and it is clear that the COVID-19 crisis is undermining it. We are hearing more and more about psychological and social distress and depression among young people, which can be explained in part by the sense of isolation that many of them feel because of social distancing. A recent study conducted by Sharp Europe shows that over two-thirds of the under-30s feel cut off from their company as a result of the generalisation of remote working. This leads not only a feeling of loneliness, but also to a real drop in motivation and ambition.

While youth is generally described as the best period of life, when individuals make plans for the future, the lack of social contact can be particularly detrimental. It is therefore urgent to maintain social ties in order to alleviate the psychosocial burden that weighs on young people today.

Not all social bonds are worth cultivating. Hence, once again, the importance of building a quality network. This means moving away from negative relationships, being surrounded by people who are likely to give a helping hand, or finding mentors and role models who can inspire and motivate.

How to Develop a Quality Network

Before contacting a prospective new network member, experts argue, one has to be prepared. This could mean developing a good pitch or taking care of one’s image, both real and virtual. Most importantly, one has to remain natural and true to oneself in order to inspire authentic relationships.

A quality network is above all a network that is taken care of. It is therefore essential to regularly exchange news with other network members, to give them time and attention. In a world where everything goes fast, this could make the difference.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of ideas to explore to develop a network, whether professional or not:  

  • Alumni associations
  • Social networks
  • Meeting applications
  • Online clubs
  • Webinars, masterclasses
  • Membership into NGOs.

While offices, conferences, seminars and cafes remain closed, new technologies offer various online opportunities to meet with new people. Developing a network is not easy in these times of global crisis. But anything is possible and it is up to us to surround ourselves with the right people.

Your Public Value has set itself the goal of developing an active and inspiring membership to foster dialogue on the common good and help shape the society we want. We, at Your Public Value, believe that a multi-stakeholder and inter-generational approach is the best way to share knowledge and experience. Come and join us to build your quality network!

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