Connections. How many we have and how far afield our network extends has become both a topic of conversation and a badge of honour. The concept of networking isn’t new – what’s changed is how we do it, the volume of connections one can entertain, and the speed with which it all happens.
When I first entered the business world, I read an article on networking that got me started on the right track. I was pretty shy way back when. The thought of attending a business event by myself and approaching people I’d never met was daunting to say the least. I would have preferred a walk through a bat-filled cave at night with my hands tied behind my back. But the writer made one key point that resonated and has stayed with me to this day. When we’re feeling self-conscious and shy, we’re completely centered on ourselves in a way that will actually impede building new relationships. Reaching out to meet others starts with caring about them first. That got me over my shyness very quickly. I overcame social reluctance by asking about people’s interests and remembering those things when next we met. I still worry every now and then that I’ll trip while making what could have been a professional entrance or that I have a large piece of spinach stuck to a tooth from that last canapé, but the difference is those thoughts no longer get in the way. It’s helped me meet some pretty incredible people.
Today’s opportunities for connecting are almost endless. In-person conversations are still at the top of my list but the ways to meet and explore new relationships has greatly expanded. The infographic inserted in this article points out that 80% of Twitter usage happens via a mobile device – showing that we’ve evolved to the point where we’re networking no matter where we are. I can be on a bus or a train and ask a leadership question that will reach millions on LinkedIn. Responses will start showing up right away with a good chance that I’ll hear from people on all seven continents within a few hours. The viewpoints shared will be vastly different one from the other, and often a conversation will sprout wings and become something other than intended. It’s these informal learning moments that keep me reaching out and connecting with more and more people.
That’s what 21st century connectedness is all about for me — accepting networking invitations from people I don’t know and finding ways to share our knowledge. Reasoning out problems. Making fewer mistakes by learning from others. The medical community has even begun to recognize the ancillary value of social media to combat loneliness and isolation in the elderly.
What does connectedness mean to you? Is it important?