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With the incorporation of social distancing into our daily lives, in-person events may be forever changed.

Reflection on COVID and new future for networking

rocks balanced on water

Firstly, the NetworkIN team hopes that you and your family are staying safe and healthy. We would also like to send our appreciation to everyone who is on the front line of this crisis and for those who are completing essential work. For the remaining population who have stayed home – thank you!

This pandemic has touched nearly all corners of our globe – physically, economically, and socially. I am sure that the pandemic of 2020 will be the catalyst for the creation of new norms and behavioural changes that will define a generation. For now, what they may be, we can only speculate. But, one can hope, that out of the depths of challenges and adversity, creativity and innovation will prevail.

As pillar in formal networking and corporate business interactions, making a good first impression through a firm handshake and later exchanging business cards, will likely become a past time. With the incorporation of social distancing into our daily lives, in-person events may be forever changed.

Like many other events, our Spring networking event was cancelled. After the initial disappointment, this break provides us unique time to reflect on our mission and provide space for us to re-invent our own networking events. In consideration of what our Fall event may look like, I would like to share my first initial thoughts. Hosting virtual networking events may lift some barriers to attendance – transportation restrictions, long travel times, and location inconvenience. Now, virtual networking can be attended from the comforts of your own home or office. Hosting an online platform may also provide the opportunity to involve a larger catchment of biomedical professionals from in and around the Indianapolis metropolitan area. In addition to logistical benefits, the utilization of breakout rooms may substitute physical tables and ease the common challenges many trainee’s associate with networking, for example, working the room. Additionally, small virtual “coffee hours” with an expert may provide opportunities for trainees to learn about career options as well as gain tips and skills on how to grow professionally.

Beyond our local event, NetworkIN has previously discussed online conferences as an alternative platform to keep the scientific community connected and how we can adapt our networking skills to suit an online conference format. Now I can only imagine that the evolution of virtual conferences is only going to accelerate.

While there are many unknowns about the future we are stepping into, there are some skills that will always be translatable regardless. Knowing how to have real conversations. Ask good questions. Truly listen. The handshake may never come back, but other things will not go away. So, let us focus on these.

For now, stay safe and healthy.

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.
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Elizabeth Swallow

Graduate Student

I am a graduate student in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology focusing my research on bone and chronic kidney disease.