It’s not often I feel inclined to write a fluff piece, or I should say that I’m more often inclined to fluff it up, but this is a business publication so I try (try being the operative word) to be as professional as possible. However, I have a bone to pick with you, America.
Business has taken a major shift, and quite frankly it urks me. What happened to valuing people and creating relationships? American business people have turned into faceless drones, hiding behind email and text communication. It’s rare anyone picks up the phone anymore let alone meets you face to face at your office.
I blame technology. Smartphones and tablet computers have made it easy and effortless to be constantly connected while on-the-go. Skype and FaceTime have made it so you don’t even have to be in the same country as your colleagues and still able to hold meetings. Heck, even at grocery stores you can scan, bag and pay for your own groceries without talking to a single employee.
Where has our human connection gone?
Networking groups have even shifted from high quality business people mingling to create valuable relationships, to shark infested waters. I can no longer attend a networking event with the hopes of connecting with cool, like-minded people that will create a mutually beneficial relationship. I am now in an endless sea of salesmen and MLM’s stuffing their beauty products or health drinks down my throat.
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Let me tell you what Networking is NOT about:
Networking is NOT about card sharking. AKA: collecting as many cards as you possibly can and then using that information to spam everyone you can with your sales pitch. We don’t care, knock it off.
Networking is NOT about finding a date. It is infuriating for women and men alike to attend a networking event only to be presented with a man or woman who is only there to get a date. This is especially true when said events are held at a bar during happy hour. This is what dating sites are for, people. Don’t make it the unhappy hour.
Networking is NOT about selling your product and/or service to every single person in the room. In fact, networking is not about selling at all. It is about creating meaningful, long lasting professional relationships. Don’t shove your sales pitch in people’s faces, it’s obnoxious.
Networking is about PEOPLE. You never know someone knows, or when they may need your services. Business is all about the relationships you create, not about the sale. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve met with a really cool person after a networking event for a quick drink or coffee and they either ended up being a great business contact or in one case, one of my best friends.
The human connection is one of the most essential pieces to life and in business. We can’t continue to sit behind computers, creating semi-meaningful relationships through Facebook likes and re-tweets. Go. Unplug.
I challenge you to find a networking event in your community and ask one person to grab coffee. Even if you strike out, chances are at the very least you will get to know someone new and learning how to make face-to-face connections.