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Meetings, daily work tasks and conferences are moving online - and your job search and networking efforts should, too.

Tero Vesalainen/iStockPhoto / Getty Images

There’s no question that the current graduating class is facing an unprecedented job market. In addition to a worsening economic outlook, in-person career networking events are cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and traditional face-to-face career conversations are postponed indefinitely.

If there’s one career-related silver lining in this very bleak market, it’s that by forcing everyone to work remotely, the crisis has thrust us into the future of work, where we can use technology to form smarter, more data-informed career conversations. It’s a race to innovate by every company, college and university to go digital and sustain career development efforts so that students, recent grads and professionals can make connections, stay engaged and avoid being left behind.

So how do you get started?

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Connect online

Meetings, daily work tasks and conferences are moving online – and your job search and networking efforts should, too. Almost every educational institution and entrepreneurship centre is introducing digital networking and career-development solutions.

Before this pandemic, people would look to online meetings as a last resort and tended to be disengaged during these sessions. Now the need for social distancing has led to them valuing virtual connections. Participants are buying in, cameras on, dressing the part and engaging in the conversation just as if it was an in-person connection. The conversations may be online – but they’re still face-to-face. This new movement of networking will break down barriers and create wider accessibility for people – especially students.

This challenging time is a call to action. Academic and corporate leadership need to innovate and launch these online tools to create “Aha!” moments – where career inspirations and new ideas are found. As we work from home, this type of connection is what so many people are looking for. Now is a great time for students and recent grads to look into what resources are available at their schools to digitally match them with alumni and employers.

Know that professionals want to help

This pandemic has created an increased amount of care and empathy, where professionals understand the impact the global slowdown will have on students and recent grads, and they want to help. They’re also at home, with little opportunity to connect and share with other professionals. People are now, more than ever, open to having career conversations online and networking.

Many professionals have long understood the value of helping students and recent grads, because spending time speaking to the next generation and talking about your job brings clarity and insight to their own work – the more you teach, the more you learn. It’s also a way for companies to discover great talent and get a sense of what future workers are looking for.

For instance, just last week Kaaren Whitney-Vernon, senior vice-president of Branded Entertainment at Toronto-based Shaftesbury Films, sent out a call to action to professionals across industries to “start a community of those, like me, who may be interested in helping out a student – whatever industry you are in.”

Her suggestion of connecting experts with students for a call or e-mail connection is aimed at providing a simple way for students to have access to some of the information and networks that cancelled events have taken away.

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Keep learning

As students and employers try to ride out this crisis and face delays in getting the jobs they’d hoped for, it’s important to continue to focus on development. As tough as times may get, downturns always end, and keeping your mind active, building resilience, developing your skill set and networks will help once we’re on the other side.

Having that forward-looking approach is important not just in the short term, when an online community needs to replace the office water cooler, but also as a long-term reminder that while it may seem like the whole world is closed right now, learning and development are wide open.

The coming months won’t be easy for anyone, and given how stressful the school-to-work transition is in the best of times, this added uncertainty may seem particularly anxiety-inducing for graduating students.

In the middle of all this disruption, students and professionals are striving to keep human connections and taking new approaches to do so. The tools are available to work and learn online and to connect remotely, and this crisis will reveal to a larger segment of the business and education world how effective those tools can really be and how much more we can innovate.

Dave Wilkin is the CEO of Ten Thousand Coffees, a global enterprise talent development technology company.

This column is part of Globe Careers’ Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab.

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