Technologists as a whole seem to have adapted well to working at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. They’re generally happy, and many of them appreciate the ultra-short morning commute from bedroom to wherever they’ve set up their home office. But there’s another question to consider: Is all this remote work damaging their longer-term career plans?
Blind, which anonymously surveys technologists about all sorts of issues, recently lobbed that query to its audience. Some 53 percent of respondents said that, yes, the pandemic has messed up their career plans in some way.
What’s actually causing that impact? Some 74 percent of technologists said they hadn’t been able to effectively network internally since remote work began; 75 percent, meanwhile, said they were also having problems with external networking.
This is actually a huge issue. During “normal” times, opportunities to network within your company abound; an activity as simple as fetching a fresh cup of coffee from the office kitchen can allow you to interact with all kinds of folks. Companies also make a huge effort to bring employees together in more informal settings, whether lunches or happy hours or team activities; as much as workers might grumble about “mandatory fun,” these events allow them to form lasting connections with colleagues.
When it comes to external networking, similar factors apply. Many technologists attend conferences, meetups, and other get-togethers that put them in close contact with lots of people. With all of those activities temporarily shut down, there’s simply no way to mingle and expand one’s contacts list.
On a company-by-company basis, here’s the percentage of technologists who feel that perpetual working from home has knocked their career a bit off-track:
Fortunately, there are still strategies that technologists can employ to stay connected—and even network—during COVID-19. For example, you can intentionally set up meetings to interact with folks (be respectful of their time if your main goal is simply to chat). Although many companies have become increasingly proactive about scheduling virtual get-togethers and lunches for employees, if your own firm hasn’t done anything along those lines, you may want to prod your manager to set a few up.
And while the lack of a communal office space may prevent those random meetings that can turn into lifelong bonds, you can certainly reach out to those folks with whom you’ve always wanted to connect. Set up a Slack or Teams conversation with a co-worker you admire; make a list of topics or issues that could spark an engaging chat. As long as you’re respectful of their time, they’ll likely prove willing to engage.
Meanwhile, many conferences and career fairs are going online, which is great news. You won’t have the opportunity to bump into people in the hallways, but you can always make a note of who’s speaking and reach out to them later via social media. These events may also set up Q&A sessions where you can directly interact with speakers and participants.
In other words, networking hasn’t gone away—it’s just changed formats. There’s still ample opportunity for any technologists to build the connections they need in order to expand their career. For the time being, though, you may just have to do it via laptop as opposed to in-person.