Jelena Zikic is an Associate Professor at York University. In her research and practice, she explores a combination of career and life transitions of diverse populations.
Communicating in the remote world has now become second nature for many of us.
Many workers see benefits of being able to take calls and conduct meetings in the comfort of their own home online while using a variety of technology. We have also become accustomed to new routines, such as no commute and being close to family during working hours.
While there are no doubt benefits, we have also lost our natural, more spontaneous ways of interacting and communicating with colleagues, friends and acquaintances.
Much of our online presence is based on communication that is limited. We lack many rich, non-verbal behaviours and we are often too conscious and focus on our own image on screen, while paying less attention to the physical cues and facial expressions of others. Yet, what is even more problematic are meetings that often take place with cameras turned off. While many of us are now used to this type of communication and interaction, there are still consequences, especially for those seeking new jobs or trying to make a major career transition.
As social beings, we need human contact. Some of us seek contact more than others, but constantly living and meeting colleagues in a virtual world has distanced all of us from each other – especially from the times when we spontaneously used to meet face to face in the office setting. In some ways we forgot what it is like to meet in the elevator or a corridor and have a non-scripted conversation, an ad hoc coffee meeting or an in-person meeting for an informal information interview. It is also true some workers discovered how much more they enjoy working from home, and those perhaps more introverted of us may even prefer to keep it this way.
Yet, many organizations are going back to the office, at least for part of the working week. This will benefit anyone hoping to network or search for a job because face-to-face meetings and in-person contact is much more effective.
One key point to remember about the basic etiquette of good networking (whether virtual or in-person) is that it must be reciprocal. Even if we feel that a more senior contact may have more to share and offer to a more junior colleague, we must realize each of us has expertise, skill and knowledge (even if not directly work related) that may be useful and of benefit to the other person. Realize every contact you are trying to reach can and should benefit from what you have to offer. When networking is seen as one-sided, these contacts usually won’t last or feel valued in a long run.
The second piece of advice is, especially when making a transition, to maintain regular communication. It is now easier than ever to connect to anyone around the world, but because of our busy lives, we forget to stay in touch. Make it a habit to contact at least one person from your network each month – as a way of keeping in touch and sharing your news. There are many important relationships that we lose over time, yet a simple, short and sincere message can go a long a way.
The third piece of advice has to do with the type of communication we want to practice when networking. As our lives are becoming busier, we want to make sure our messages are concise. When trying to reach someone for the first time or even just follow-up with an old contact, keep in mind your message should be clear and concise, in a way to convey the most important aspects of your “ask.”
Finally, respect that when asking for information or seeking job-related advice, your request may not always the priority for the other colleague. Allow for some time for the response and if needed, kindly follow up. While being concise and respectful sounds simple, it is surprising to see how many relationships break because of these two issues.
This column is part of Globe Careers’ Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about the world of work. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab and guidelines for how to contribute to the column here.
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