Building a network during coronavirus

Gareth Hughes is the Clinical Lead for Student Space and is a psychotherapist, researcher and writer on student wellbeing, including the book Be Well, Learn Well

Having a wide social network can help you to thrive while you are at university. This doesn’t mean you have to find dozens of close friends, but it may help to have a range of people to connect with in different ways.

Building a network is something that would usually happen organically, over time. This year, because of coronavirus, you might want to take a more structured and planned approach.

Different social plans will work for different students. Here are some actions you can take to start building your network.

Nine steps to build your network

1. Identify all of the places where you can meet people, like in class, clubs and societies, and online forums. Use your university and Students’ Union website to help you identify these options.

2. Think about how you can use these places to meet other people. If you are socially confident, you may simply be happy to put yourself into these environments, knowing that you’ll be able to strike up conversations. If you don’t have this confidence, plan out a few strategies to get you started that are appropriate to each environment.

3. Think about how you can continue conversations, beyond each place. Could you identify one or two people in class and ask to meet up for coffee? Or shout out on a forum to arrange a socially distanced meet? Or suggest a group of likeminded people engage in a hobby together?

4. Alternatively, you may want to start by identifying the types of things you are interested in, or the kinds of people you may want to meet. Then you can identify where in the university you could meet them. Is there a club or society where you might meet similar minded people?

5. Or you may want to think of your student life in segments and look for people to match against each segment. For example people:

  1. You can study with
  2. You can do sport with
  3. You can have fun with
  4. Who may help with your career

6. While many people in your network may be fellow students, be willing to consider university staff (such as your tutor) or work colleagues as part of your network.

7. Try not to look for the perfect person or group of people. Remember, you are building a network, not seeking out the absolute right person for you. People who are fun to be around are a useful part of your network, even if you don’t want to see them every day.

8. Write your plan down or draw it out – you are more likely to act on a plan you have committed to paper. Once you see it written down, you will also be able to see if there are gaps you want to address

9. As soon as your plan is done, take one or two ideas and act on them as soon as possible. This will help to building your confidence and start to establish your network quickly.