Networking or Not Working

Personal Interaction is Still a Necessity

By Margaret J. Vaughan

Earlier this year, while dining with friends at Eddie V’s restaurant in Houston, a group of a dozen teens arrived dressed in prom attire. They looked wonderful and appeared delighted as they were led to their table and seated. I watched them, thinking that, although the style of dress had changed, the excitement of this moment was the same as from my own prom.

That was until they all took out their cell phones and started texting: to their friends, to their families, and, most astonishingly, to each other. The most personal interaction they seemed to have during the course of their dinner was with the waiting staff. I was astounded.

And yet I now see this same behavior exhibited everywhere. What concerns me is not the unrelenting use of technology; it is the lack of personal face-to-face verbal interaction and communication. While technological advancements are wonderful and have added so much to our daily lives, they have, to a certain extent, also stripped us of human contact and the ability to hold meaningful conversation.

Body language is a form of non-verbal communication (as anyone with a teenager knows). It is notable that emojis have been developed to import tone and emotion to text and email messages. One can truly only learn about a person by speaking with them, preferably in person. One cannot “read” a person from text and email messages the way one can when speaking directly to them.

Ernest Hemingway, considered a literary master and thought by many of his readers to embody the romantic hero of his writings, was in person, according to one biographer, physically and verbally abusive, cruel to animals, compulsively nasty, congenitally dishonest and staggeringly petulant. Personal associates of Hemingway could “read” the difference between the real person and his written exemplar.

But why are so many people hiding behind their screens and limiting their communiques to 280 characters? Where are their communication skills? Why aren’t more of our younger colleagues taking advantage of social activities offered at industry events like the Breakbulk conferences to develop closer relationships with older, more experienced, industry professionals? Such opportunities are golden, easily mined, and especially important in discovering career opportunities. The old adage “it’s not what you know but who you know” is still true.

Social media, while great for maintaining relationships, is no substitute for in-person sociability. Online employment sites work on algorithms seeking candidates who satisfy specific keyword criteria, whereas personal connections know you and your abilities thereby increasing your chances of getting in front of hiring professionals. One should not hire on the basis of a resume alone or marry someone simply based on their online profile; in both instances personal interaction is required.

Networking, the development of contacts, whether on a social or business level, is an essential component of our lives – especially in business – and a tool to opening many professional doors.

Networking or not working, the choice is yours.  

Margaret J. Vaughan has more than 30 years’ experience in all facets of supply chain management, serving most recently as logistics manager for Wood PLC where she worked for 12 years.

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