College is a jumping off point for many careers. It’s where you learn how to function in a real-world job and it’s where you network and make friends who will be your career cohort for life. Unfortunately the pandemic has derailed normal college life for many students, leaving them to wonder how they will be able to get a start in their jobs and how they will be able to network with their peers to help each other build careers. Leaving students to their own devices is a sure path to early career burnout – we all know you don’t get there on your own. So how can students continue to network with their peers to form the kinds of relationships upon which their future careers will be built?

Currently, one in six recent high school grads are thinking about choosing a different path than college because of the pandemic. But what will they do instead? Unemployment is at record highs – higher than during The Great Depression, and higher than ever in some states and areas. Now is the time for education and training, because as the economy comes back online that is the yardstick by which candidates will be measured against one another. Recent grads could get jobs in fulfillment centers or stocking grocery store shelves, but even then education is going to be important for moving on once the economy begins to recover.

Colleges and universities are struggling. Those that refused to cancel classes are dealing with lawsuits alleging they endangered students, while those that did cancel classes are struggling to maintain the funding needed to keep the doors open to the next class of students.

Meanwhile, students are left to decide whether going back to campus is safe or whether taking online classes is worth it. There are no good decisions in a time like this, and the objective becomes making the best possible decision given the circumstances.

For most students, though, continuing their education is going to be the right decision. There’s nothing more expensive and less worthwhile than a degree started but not finished. What’s more, education and training are the best way forward for many students who will be graduating into an exceedingly difficult job market.

It is still possible to get a good education remotely, fortunately. It is also still possible to network remotely with other students who are also attending classes remotely. 

There are some tricks to remote networking, and the best place to start is LinkedIn. Students who don’t understand the value of a LinkedIn profile are going to need to start by building a profile. That profile can be used to add classmates from classes and group assignments and then it can be used to keep the lines of communication open throughout the pandemic and beyond.

Networking is just one of many challenges facing students who will be entering the workforce soon. These disruptions can also cause serious mental health problems, and maintaining a strong personal and professional network can help with that, too.

Education is still important, and in fact it’s probably more important than ever right now as the economy is poised to recover from one of the worst economic downturns in history. Learn more about college in the age of coronavirus from the infographic below.