Too often, trying to have a conversation with someone feels like a constant battle for his or her attention, which usually ends up with the phone winning. Digital devices have become prominent players in how individuals connect with the world but these tools have also introduced barriers to how people interact with others, personally and professionally. Because of these difficulties, the nature of networking has changed, become somewhat broken and in need of repair.
Here are some major issues confronting individuals trying to network -- and what people in the business world can do to overcome them:
1. A world of transience.
People's lives are continually changing and at a faster pace than ever before. Relationships (and how people choose to manage them) are far more subject to change over time than they were 20 years ago. People travel and move more often and therefore make more connections.
Individuals will switch bankers, lawyers and accountants if it’s more convenient. Companies change partnerships often and employees switch jobs more frequently as well. The increase in turnover has made it more difficult to cultivate meaningful relationships in all aspects of life.
Increasingly, people keep track of their close relationships by using their phones and laptops. This technology helps them stay in touch with their contacts but at the risk of letting their connections become more digital than personable. As life becomes ever more digitized, it's vital to still maintain strong relationships with a network of individuals.
The same goes for companies as well. With so many interactions now occurring on personal technology, companies tend to lose clients when a staff member moves on. Or organizations wind up with a pile of stale leads that new employees might not know what to do with. Companies need to keep better track of the relationships created by their employees and recognize that every time a business card is exchanged, two relationships are being created: one between individuals and another between organizations.
2. The frenzy.
In 1930, renowned economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that technology would advance so much that by 2028 people would need to work only three hours a day to sustain themselves, spending the remaining time in leisure pursuits. Although the predicted deadline is only 14 years away, humans couldn’t be further from that relaxed reality. And technology is the culprit as well as the catalyst.
In this digital age, people have too many devices and platforms on which to communicate and interact with: computers, tablets, phones, email, Facebook, LinkedIn. With so many choices available, it’s hard to stay organized. This means that the barrier between people is becoming more difficult to breach just to get someone’s attention. People often forget to answer important requests or have a hard time remembering a particular individual.
To counter this frenzied pace, people should take time to cultivate meaningful connections in the real world and turn off the screens that take up so much time. When interactions must take place online, they should be significant and deliberate, aimed at connecting with those individuals a person really wants to have a relationship with.
3. False connections.
While the advent of social media has introduced numerous benefits to the world, it also has created and perhaps encouraged a false sense of connection. This happens in personal lives and is apparent in the business world as well. On all fronts, people are flooded on a regular basis with "friend" and "follower" requests from people they do not know or care to.
Despite these drawbacks, social media can be an excellent tool for networking. For instance, LinkedIn can direct businesses to amazing talent to fill vacant positions. Twitter can help people identify influencers in any given arena. Use such capabilities to realize benefits but remember that these platforms should serve merely as a supplement for building real connections offline.
While each of these obstacles can be worrisome, they can be addressed. As life becomes more and more intertwined with technology, embrace the elements that enhance the skills of strong communication and powerful networking, while discarding features that distract from these important goals. Since technology is not likely to ever slow its frenzied pace, try to mend what's broken and regain control of relationships.