by Alice Osborne
Now is the best time to build social and professional circles
When visiting family in Bangkok last March for what I thought might be a slightly longer Easter break than normal, little could I have imagined finishing university remotely and still being here over a year on. As a 22-year-old setting up my career and social circle in Bangkok from pretty much zero, with a pandemic thrown into the mix just to add to the challenge, have definitely learnt a lot about building my networks.
Over the last year I’ve chatted (physically and online) with school students, graduates, parents, teachers, alumni, entrepreneurs, SME owners and corporate CEOs. Still seems crazy to me that I have 1. Gained the confidence to go out and do that and 2. Had people be so receptive to meet with me! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reconnecting with the old, maintaining existing, and creating new relationships.
Reconnecting with old friends and making new ones
With an abundance of time on everyone’s hands it was so fulfilling to bolster current and rekindle past relationships during lockdown. But upon easing of the restrictions in Thailand came the realisation that I actually had no friends based in Thailand anymore from the Bangkok Patana school days.
A dinner with four alumni one evening quickly turned into a reunion for more than twenty! Going into this network with no expectations, I was taken aback by how easy it was to get on with so many likeminded people. The speed of building strong friendships has been so rapid, especially since we are all super excited to be able to interact with people outside our immediate households.
Through this practice of contacting people, I had vaguely known at school or never met before but were friends of friends, I have found a solid base of besties to navigate young professional life within Bangkok.
Approaching those that are lesser known
After the challenge of making new friends, came that of finding a job. Graduating from university and coming into the daunting reality of mass youth unemployment, with recent grads vying for a much reduced number of vacancies, made it extra difficult to know where to start the job hunt…
So, I reached out to existing and new contacts on LinkedIn, asking for advice not a job. I quickly realised it was about not focusing on the easy networks. The biggest surprises came from mobilising my weakest ties with people I either didn’t see very often, didn’t know well or even at all. Then coupling the input from my parents and friends who understand me, in contrast with these new connections who didn’t, enabled creative and realistic thinking about my future.
Discomfort and Unfamiliarity are great teachers
Talking with people I had never thought possible to approach or connect with in the pre-Covid world has stimulated conversation about career opportunities that were never on my previous radar. Starting my first ever job working in the unfamiliar concentration of blockchain technology, with undefined responsibilities as is the nature of a start-up, led me to discover an unexpected affinity for content writing. By doing new and different work with new and different people, I am learning a lot about what brings out the best in me. It’s been such a rewarding experience to have unexpected doors open and contribute to the success of my connections in return.
Following up for unexpected opportunities
Following up with new connections has driven several fruitful opportunities so far, including this writing gig for Expat Life in Thailand! Even in the new normal of social distancing and virtual meetings, I’ve still been able to expand my network and develop solid professional relationships. Recently connected with a newsletter author for example, just because I liked an article they wrote. Now am in the process of exploring an exciting opportunity for me to engage with China – which is close to my heart having lived there and speaking Chinese – through translating local news not featured in mainstream Western media.
Who doesn’t love a casual chat over coffee?
Over this last year of craziness, feel that I’ve met some of my biggest cheerleaders both personally and professionally. Everyone is clearly attaching a whole new level of importance to social interaction and relationships so there is no better time to reconnect with old acquaintances or reach out to form new bonds. People may not have money right now, but they do have time and are eager to meet! Especially in Thailand, where the pandemic is fortunately under control, it is a great time to invite someone you wouldn’t previously have dreamed accessible for a coffee. Odds are they have the time that they may not have again when the world fully reopens.