What’s truly important are our connections we make with people, particularly in person. That's true for career networking - meeting people who you can help and who can help you, be successful in a career path.
Think back to the people in your life who have given you the most joy, the most fun, and sparked the most rewarding work. How did you meet them? How did you connect with them? Chances are, even if you met through the Internet, your relationship didn’t really gel until you talked by phone or met in person.
Recently, I got out of the office to meet my former Career Development Facilitator (CDF) instructor at a local lakeside walk. After spending more time than I had anticipated with her, I got back to my office, energized. New ideas were flowing. Talking with someone outside of my employer but in my same field was invaluable - I needed to escape some tunnel vision. Plus, she’s a really great person - that positive feeling stayed with me for days.
I honestly never feel like that when I connect with people online - by email or via networking services like LinkedIn. I’m pleased to establish online relationships, sometimes excited, but I just don’t get the same warm feeling unless I talk by phone or meet someone in person. Maybe I’m just unusual, but I doubt it.
Here are some ways to refocus on “in person” connections (I’m doing them too):
- Who on your contacts list haven’t you talked or met with in awhile that you miss?
- Are there some people you only call when you need something? Try calling just to say “hello” - maybe you can offer to help them with something. If you sense their hesitation when you call, you know you’ve outworn the welcome mat and you need to redeem yourself.
- Is your list of contacts a mile wide and an inch deep? Maybe you need to spend more time on more rewarding connections - people you really like or want to get to know.
- Are you having lunch/coffee with the same people over and over again? Is there much new to talk about or learn? Maybe it’s time to meet new people.
- Are you having trouble picking up the phone? Making the time for an in person meeting? It's easy to sit in front of a computer - sometimes hard to write an email that expresses what really want to say. But it's definitely more of a challenge, especially for the less outgoing, to talk to people. Consider it practice for improving your communication skills - one of the 17 Foundation Skills.
P.S. If you need convincing (or a reminder) about the power of that in person connection... I recently got hooked on the BBC’s The Choir, a series about a choirmaster who starts a community choir in South Oxhey, a place north of London that’s seen better times. It’s moving and inspirational. It makes you think about the power of community - and the power of personal connections between people. If you can get it on Netflix or see it on cable OnDemand, I highly recommend it.