Did you know only 2% of the population can multitask effectively? McNeill Nakamoto, known for taking a fun approach to everything, presents The Perils Of Multitasking via an entertaining infographic. Twitter link: @McNak
I used to think the smoking crowd at work had a huge advantage. I’d see them leave the building together and come back 10 minutes later with all kinds of plans and energy. Why? They took the time to chat with other people, compare ideas, crystallize thoughts. Meanwhile, the non-smokers remained glued to their desk, staring at a mind-numbing computer screen.
Smoking breaks have always held a special appeal for corporate ladder climbers. The savvy folks in the office know if the visiting executive is a smoker, you want to follow him or her outside as smoke breaks have a way of flattening the hierarchy. I don’t know if it’s the shared struggle to get a light despite the wind sprites flitting around at the base of office buildings or if it’s the shared stigma created by engaging in an activity that relegates one to “6 metres from any building entrance”. Whatever the cause, it’s just enough to create a space where junior wannabes can get some serious face time with managers up the chain.
Yesterday I decided to join the smokers to get a little extra networking and ideation. What happened instead is I became part of a group of businesswomen standing outside, heads down, staring at Blackberries and iPhones, thumbs flying. No conversation.
I’m beginning to think the smokers are losing their networking advantage.
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?
For years I resisted the whole idea of networking. My mental association was an image of Herb Tarlek, the consumate slick salesman, wearing white shoes and an insincere grin handing out business cards two at at time with instructions to his new acquaintances to pass the extra cards to people in their network (if you’re my age you remember Herb from WKRP in Cincinnati – if this doesn’t ring a bell, never mind).
Then I began playing on LinkedIn. It wasn’t intentional. A colleague sent me an invitation and I accepted just to be polite. I got off to a rocky start by connecting with people who saw me as a shortcut to booking a sales call at the Fortune 500 company I worked for. You know the type. They don’t make eye contact when you meet because they’re too busy scanning the room to see if there’s anyone more interesting hanging around.
I took a break from social networking for a while and then I read an article about paying it forward. I decided to give it a try and began viewing networking as a way to provide value to others rather than as a means to making a sale. Five years later I have over six hundred connections on LinkedIn and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many business people in my communities that I would not have met without these social networking platforms. I’ve helped people find web sites on emigrating to Canada, I’ve connected job seekers with recruiters at my company all over North America, and I’ve helped people polish their resume.
That’s where the value of networking lies. It’s in paying it forward and making connections with real people. And learning. Sites like LinkedIn facilitate sharing and learning within the global business community in an unintrusive and collaborative way.
So try networking from a different perspective. Think what you can bring to your network and get out there and deliver. The results will come in later.