By Kelly Urgan
Online programs are great for being able to study in your bathrobe when your neighbor's barking dog wakes you at 3:00 a.m. But what they add in flexibility, they subtract in personal connection.
Students don’t have to float adrift, however. Throughout 2018, a group of women independently navigated through UC San Diego’s Copyediting Certificate program, crossing paths only in instructor-led forums. Inevitably as courses wound down, the instructor would mention networking, the dreaded word of any participant in a new career field. Many students would leave email addresses or LinkedIn URLs to little avail.
One day, an intrepid and gregarious student decided to reach out to students who actively participated in discussion forums, who offered feedback and positivity, and who genuinely wanted to begin a career as a copyeditor. She invited them to participate in an email group, creating our crew of nine.
With members from the US, Canada, and the United Arab Emirates, our emails sailed across the oceans as we got to know one another, like new friends at a new school. Each of us started at UCSD at different times, and we celebrated when each new graduate raised her certificate in relief and joy at successfully completing the program.
We are now branching out into our freelance careers, and our wingwomen are always available to reach out to. We share questions, triumphs, and milestones, along with fears and doubts. Although most of us are relatively new to freelancing, we share the good, the bad, and the not-so-pretty-but-not-really-ugly. As we misstep, we admit our mistakes as a heads-up so the others don’t wander down the same path.
An unexpected benefit that formed within the group is a new sense of accountability: where once we were individual, unanchored boats, now we move as a fleet—still independent but moving in the same direction, encountering similar obstacles although at different times. Once a member shares a goal, the others follow up. At this stage, it’s impossible for us to imagine embarking on this career path without the support our group offers. We have not only created a safe place to share our setbacks and detours, but also a built-in community of friendship and encouragement. To give one example how comfortable group members are with each other, once this post was written, I asked for their input and edits—something I never would have had the courage to do without the supportive environment we built together.
As students come and go through the different courses and programs, we would like to recommend that when the instructor opens up the opportunity to network, don’t be shy. Reach out and start making your own support networks because you can’t realize today how valuable those friendships will be in the future.