There is not a day that passes where I don’t reflect on how dramatically technology has changed our lives. Of course our social interactions have changed, but so have business interactions.
The way we work and conduct our business lives on the day-to-day is wildly different. It has impacted the way we commute, communicate and how we run our businesses. I remember as a kid I would drive around with my dad who had a bag phone, business cards in a folder, and yellow notepad and that’s all he used to run his business. Now all of those tools have now been consolidated to our phones. While the way I accomplish my tasks may be vastly different — one thing that has not changed is this: relationships are still critical.
It is all too easy — and often more comfortable — to hide behind our screens and communicate via e-mail, messengers and texting, but none of these digital interactions can even come close to an honest, face-to-face relationship. While my father may no longer use a yellow pad, at least in front of me, he still relies on the relationships he had while he was using the bag phone.
It would seem as our worlds move faster relationships diminish in value, but the opposite has become true. A University of Oxford study found that relying on social media to keep up a relationship actually weakens your bond with that person. Forbes Insights found that 8 out of 10 business professionals favor in-person contact over virtual or phone meetings.
These facts rings true whether you are a job or searching for one. While there are no shortage of online jobs boards — Indeed, Monster, Career Builder, the list goes on and on — there is still a shortage of employees satisfied with their work. This is because simply having access to people does not equate to building a relationship with them, or even communicating in a way that is memorable and connecting those dots is a totally different matter.
So, in order to get to work, you need to get to work building stronger relationships. Here’s how to start:
- Reach out
If you are a human being, you already have a network. So make a list of all the people you know who you’d like to build a relationship with and get in touch. Remind them that you exist (important!) and let them know what you’re up to. This is a perfect time to ask any questions you might have. The strongest thing a contact can be for you outside of straight-up networking is an adviser, so ask for advice! It can prove invaluable to you and also show your peeps that you value them.
2. Date ‘em
As we said, it’s not enough just to virtually strengthen your ties, so set a meeting, suggest coffee or a meal. Organizing and then having these in person conversations are central to building trust and simply getting somebody to know and like you, and to show them that you actually care about having a relationship that goes beyond recommendation letters and putting in good words. You’ll probably get to know and like them better, too, and really learn and benefit the most from your relationship.
3. Internet stalk
Yes, for real. Use the technology that causes relationship distance for good! Get online and connect with people whose work interests you, who inspire you and who could help you. Then reach out, introduce yourself and try to meet up and build a relationship the old fashioned way: IRL. This will be flattering and show that you are invested in building relationships.
4. Build and project a brand for yourself
Having a brand is more than just a PR idea. Figure out what you are about and make sure that the relationships you create are centered around that idea or those goals and traits. Ask yourself what people say after they have worked with you. Those will be the relationships who recommend you for future jobs, start new companies, and provide feedback. Ask how connected you are in your community and how you can become more connected. This will not only bring you more meaningful relationships, but make you the kind of person that others want to build a relationship with.
5. Embrace the thank you note
Send a thank you note. Always. No matter what. Trust us, this is memorable, especially if you make use of the good ol’ USPS. Sending a genuine thank you note is an art form that is underappreciated and underused by millennials. Get yourself some professional stationery and make a habit of sending out a few lines of gratitude after each and every one of those many networking dates you’ll be setting up. Snail mail is preferred, but e-mail is better than nothing. This goes a long way.
The truth is no one knows what is going to happen in 2, 5 or 10 years. The best thing you can do is nurture the relationships that already exist and pursue the relationships you think can support your growth.