From the many pieces of advice I received from my grandfather, one that remains at the fore of my mind is a lesson he reiterated to me many times over the years. I heard it again when I was applying to university - meet people and make those connections.
Of course, this is something that the pandemic has taken away from us to a degree, but upon reflection, we have been trending in this direction regardless. With more interactions taking place over online forums, the utility of human interactions continues to become increasingly undervalued.
Ingrained into the city
In Dubai, socialising is almost ingrained into the heart and soul of the city. That’s why it has no doubt been strange for many to see half-full restaurants, shops and malls. Nothing has been the same, but it felt as though technology was taking us down a similar path anyway (albeit more gradually).
Video conference and group chats have been replacing the traditional round-table discussions long before COVID-19 knocked on our doors.
Thinking beyond digital confines
Let me preface what I am about to say with the acknowledgement that these methods also bring with them a long list of advantages. However, I am of the firm opinion that they cannot (and should not) ever replace the face-to-face human interaction my grandfather urges me to engage in as much as possible.
This is not to say that it should be forced purely for the sake of a brief chat. Rather, there are a number of ways for the youth to utilise socialising productively that can gradually be implemented as we look to emerge from the coronavirus era.
Now, the approach each individual adopts will inevitably be unique to them. My grandfather, as an avid golfer, would strike up conversations on the course and in the club, but the fundamental lesson can be applied almost anywhere, anytime.
Seek out less tried and tested
For the youth who are still finding their feet, hungry for opportunities and inspiration, they may find what they are looking for in unconventional places. It is worth getting to know someone whom you already have something in common with.
I often find it interesting to strike up a conversation at the gym, as I can begin the conversation by asking or suggesting something related to fitness, and then steer the conversation organically as it develops. More often than not, other people are open and receptive, as they too can benefit.
Here, I feel that there is scope for the youth to glean benefits from socialising to catalyse and progress their careers. Inspiration and opportunities can be found in unlikely places. It is likely that a majority of exchanges will not be immediately fruitful (if they are fruitful at all), but it is still worth pursuing, as one can never tell when they might encounter someone looking for exactly your skillset.
Comes with its uses
These interactions can be treated as pseudo job interviews, and even if they do not lead somewhere, they can result in useful connections for both parties. Later down the line, you may find yourself calling on that person you spoke to in a coffee shop because you may suddenly need someone with their particular skills (or vice versa).
Unfortunately, COVID-19 has limited how much we can put these habits into practice, and we all have an obligation to conduct ourselves responsibly, such that we can put this pandemic behind us as soon as possible. However, it is still possible (within legal and advisory parameters) to begin to implement these approaches.
For the youth, it will be of great benefit to put themselves out there, practice selling themselves and begin building a network of connections.
- Umer Lakhani is a Dubai-based undergrad.