Staying Connected During COVID

Jean Chow for the TRP | January 2021

The need for physical distance leads many of us to feel socially isolated in these challenging times. It’s important for people to stay professionally and socially connected in a time like COVID. Some of us have experienced COVID fatigue, we are human after all.

I have a quote taped above my desk: “We need this. When we meet face to face, we become human. We lift each other up.” ~ Rev. Cecil Williams, Co-Founder and the Reverend in the film “The Pursuit of Happyness”. Why? Because “we become human.”

Networking skills help us in a time of crisis like COVID-19 

I often ask what “networking” means. Some say “connecting, building relationships, meeting new people, making friends, socializing” to name a few. During this COVID-19 crisis, having good networking skills will help us because as humans, we need connection. Technology makes it easy for us to reach out and connect while maintaining social distancing.

The first “hack” in my “Five Hacks for Fearless Networking” © is to “Show Up”, overcoming the fear of social rejection. It takes courage to meet someone new on- and off-line.

Setting a Social Calendar When We Can’t Gather Physically

I have a friend who keeps a checklist to help her connect with family and friends who are near and dear to her. She also keeps another checklist to help her connect with professional contacts and colleagues.

I always maintain a professional calendar because of the nature of my business and now add to my whiteboard daily a list of my family and friends.

How to Stay Connected 

 I use them all:

Video Conferencing

Most platforms have similar features – share, chat, raise your hand, etc. I’ve used Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, GoToMeeting, WebEx to name a few, for client meetings and classes.

As lecturers/instructors, we’ve all transitioned our in-person classes to on-line seamlessly (I hope) and as someone who is very social, I’m delightfully surprised how much I love teaching virtually. Zoom is simple and easy to jump in and use and you don’t have to be a member to join a Zoom meeting.

As students (I also wear this “hat”), zoom fatigue can easily set in one virtual class after another. Breaks are essential and using different tools such as breakout rooms, polls, whiteboard, chatrooms while teaching and learning help keep audiences engaged.

Video calling and phone calls

I am an eternal optimist and plan my visits to see my 90+-year-old parents in Calgary – Easter? Their 65th Wedding Anniversary in August? Thanksgiving? Maybe Christmas? I call them daily, sometimes twice a day. When one of my siblings happens to be over, they help connect us through WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. My Dad marvels at technology and keeps trying to touch my face on the screen while my Mom wants to share her lunch with me. They are safe and well.

Just pick up the phone and call if you want to reach out to someone quickly. They’ll be delighted.

Social Media

You either love it or hate it! I’m super active on socials – connecting and engaging with friends, family, students, mentees, colleagues, acquaintances, and strangers. I post, comment, and DM on Instagram, Linked In, Facebook, and Twitter.

Some have adapted our daily fitness routines to on-line classes, including my sister, a low-tech user.  You can tour almost any museum around the world at your leisure even experience through VR the sensation of being “there” but I would argue nothing could replace being in Claude Monet’s Water Lilies Rooms at Musée de l’Orangerie

Being active on LinkedIn helps you stay relevant within your professional network again by posting comments and sharing and if you are so inclined, contributing posts and articles to help you continue to grow quality and select networks.

Email

As Boomers, we tend to default to email but I’m mindful when connecting with the younger generation usually through Instagram’s Direct Messaging, WhatsApp Groups, and with my 22-year old niece via Facebook Messenger. Choose the channel they use frequently to keep connected.

Email works for connecting with people of a certain age and it also helps to maintain and keep a thread on important issues.

Snail Mail

Snail mail serves a unique purpose if you don’t mind physically walking to a mailbox (you sometimes see them on street corners or the Post Office). During the first shut down, you can find cards at grocery retailers such as Whole Foods and stamps at Shoppers Drug Mart from cashiers. Think of snail mail as a mini-Amazon, delivering love, care, and joy in an envelope or small package to anyone anywhere in the world.

Whether it’s in-person or virtually, building relationships takes time and takes two (persons). Be fearless and connect with someone new or with someone you’re thinking of now. Remember all it takes is “one word, one action, or one thought can reduce another person’s suffering and bring them joy.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh