‘Networking’ can have negative connotations when you’ve been in business a while, but if we call it collaborating or creating communities, we begin to look up from our devices and can make a concerted effort to attend events or even chat to traders as we shop…. You never know what connections you’ll make.

In her latest newspaper column Sparkle founder Sophie Mei Lan shares the power of reconnecting with others to help our careers and most of all your wellbeing…

I’ve been on a lot of dates recently. This is unusual for me as an introvert with social anxiety who has at times found Lockdown a little too comfortable. But when we spend a lot of time on our own even if we are working from home with others via video call, everything can feel worse with no human around to act as a soundboard. Social isolation can impact us mentally and even take its toll physically. 

That said, for me, it’s not just about being around ‘anyone’ especially when you’re sensitive to ‘non-verbal noise.’ But it can be hard for many people to find spaces to connect. 

Perhaps this is one of the reasons why young people and women have taken the hardest psychological and financial hit from the pandemic, a YouGov survey found. With young people and women having even less access to services, not to mention in this country the demise of so many community hubs before Covid even hit. 

Women also reporting more work-related stress than their male counterparts and like young people have been impacted financially because whilst flexible working from home has been a good move for many, with drones of people heading back to the office, there are fears that women have become trapped in a so-called ‘she-cession’ and are stalling their careers as a result of this.  

 There are huge issues such as the fact we need more accessibility in health, well-being and of course mental health care for all communities not to mention in th job market but we need to make a concerted effort to ensure that young people and women who have so much to juggle already, have better access to services as well as safe spaces to flourish. 

I know how ‘fortunate’ I feel that we have Portobello Community Centre on the social housing estate near where I live which has groups for young people, women and even access to financial advice for locals. 

Attending a regular women’s group, has been a great outlet to give me the confidence to get back into meeting people and I have made the choice to push myself out of my comfort zone to meet others and adopt a more hybrid approach to home-working. 

So after solitude working online, this week alone I have been reinvigorated by meeting up with likeminded women in business, wellbeing and the media. After many a zoom call in recent times I met up with AD:Venture who are supporting my new start-up social enterprise in which I am actually creating a content creators space to collaborate, co-working and holding wellbeing workshops in human and online. I have mixed business with pleasure as I get back to reviewing shows at Leeds Grand Theatre and City Varieties in which I invited other female business owners from Sparkle Content Creators Collaborative as my plus ones, one an awesome photographer the other a birthing doula. Then I went on a couple of coffee and matcha latte dates with a yoga teacher I met at a nail salon with the kids in tow and another artist I met at The Ridings Vegan Fair. And I have a ‘date planned’ at The Cornerhouse with a fellow journalist who I also met whilst drooling over Vegan Cakes. 

I realise how fortunate I feel that despite at times feeling isolated that by being more open to connect with others I have started to develop new and deepen existing relationships, not to mention how friendly most people in our region actually are. Such connections have not just helped to develop ‘work’ opportunities through collaborations but most of all it has given me more confidence in all areas of life to have found people to ‘confide in,’ because when you’re leading in business or even at home, you may appear like you’ve got it all together but having to keep going without the right support makes everything feel more stressful. No man, woman or young person is an island which is why I am going to make an effort to not just continue meeting like-minded humans but to create accessible spaces to encourage such prospering and ‘story-sharing’ for all. So rather than doing a ‘Bridget Jones’ style solo this Christmas, I am quite content at being connected with a diverse community of humans.

By Sophie Mei Lan /

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