Buy a tablet, computer or laptop these days and you’ll immediately start installing apps so you can connect to people. Buy yourself a new phone and one of the most important things you’ll do or ask the salesperson to do is transfer all your connections so you don’t lose any. We use these apps to connect to the people in our social / professional networks.
Long before we had such technology; and some readers might have difficulty imagining those days, you’d have to resort to dialing up a contact on the phone. You were limited in the people you could connect to based on who you physically met in most circumstances or to whom you were introduced by a friend or colleague.
Times certainly have changed. The world is our community; our global village as Canadian Marshal McLuhan, a Social Media Theorist, predicted. Connecting with someone in another city, another country, another continent is just as easy as connecting with someone who sits across the lunch table in your workplace. And even though we’re living in 2020 with these enormous abilities to connect, the question for many still remains, “Why would I want to?”
Why indeed. I remember my early days as a LinkedIn member. It seemed to me I had a choice back then of either cautiously sharing the bare minimum of information to protect my identity from people I didn’t know, or immerse myself in this platform and by doing so, determine if it was all it was cracked up to be. I reasoned that if I only shared the barest of information on myself with respect to my previous employment, aspirations and connected only with people I knew personally, I wouldn’t be able to confidently assert whether it was effective or not. In other words, I was setting myself up to say, “I made a profile, but I don’t use it because I don’t see any benefit in it.”
Guess what I hear a lot of people say when I ask them in 2020 if they have a LinkedIn account? “I made a profile, but I don’t use it because I don’t see any benefit in it.”
Oh I started of course connecting to people I knew personally. As I did so in those first few month’s, I remember seeing many people I didn’t know who came up as suggestions. Some were in my field, working in places near and far. It occurred to me then that I could possibly benefit from exposing myself to these colleagues working in other organizations; people in my line of work or closely related to it. So I clicked on some of the suggested contacts, and found myself welcomed by Dale and Aaaron in Australia, Gayle in Collingwood Ontario, Bonnie in Wisconsin, Don in Seattle, Martin of the UK, Rupert in New Zealand and Stephen in Ottawa. My online network was growing.
Oddly enough, one day my LinkedIn account was frozen and I was contacted by an Administrator with LinkedIn who advised me they had been alerted that I was connecting to people I didn’t personally know. What? Isn’t this how we expand our circle of acquaintances and professional colleagues? I replied with an email stating as much and honestly felt that if I was to be restricted in connecting online with people I knew personally, it was of some but little value to me. It was unfrozen immediately and I continued expanding my network.
Soon I noticed people were reaching out to me; many in careers related to mine and some with backgrounds entirely foreign to my own career path. The obvious questions I had were, “Why would they want to connect with me?” and “Why would I want to connect with them?” Valid questions. Not always, but most of the time, I accepted those connections. After all, if I connected, something good might happen and if I didn’t I guaranteed nothing would. And as an Employment Counsellor, perhaps people might be reaching out to me for support and help advancing their own careers. Well it was a possibility.
I’m glad I made all these decisions because I’ve been introduced to and met some fantastic, kind, wonderfully giving people who have stimulated my thoughts with their work and yes, some that have expressed thanks for my thoughts for which I’m grateful.
Just last week I had an online chat for 45 minutes with a very dear colleague I met through my blog and LinkedIn. It was our first actual face-to-face conversation where we heard and saw each other. Guess what? It was beautiful. It was like that friend you speak to once in a blue moon and pick up right where you left off in the middle of a conversation; easily and naturally. Bella is a talented, highly skilled and considerate person; a valued connection I’d never have the pleasure of having in my network if I hadn’t made the decision to connect with her years ago when we were unknown to each other.
My advice is to network. It’s how we learn, how we grow and how we help others. It’s not called SOCIAL media by accident.
What’s your experience been? Have you met someone for whom you’re grateful? Someone you’d otherwise not know?