I think we can all agree that young people do things a little differently. This statement will probably hold true for years to come, too. As a 20-something, I’d be lying if I told you I’m not addicted to my iPhone and that I don’t sit in front of my computer all day firing emails across the WWW. My social circle relies heavily on electronic communication, and I’m embarrassed to admit that I can’t remember the last time I picked up the phone rather than sending a text to make plans.
The epidemic extends into the professional world, too. In the last month, I’ve logged in to more virtual meetings than I’ve seen clients’ offices. I have multiple screen-sharing and remote access applications on my computer. A lot of folks out there will tell you this is the direction the world is heading, that our ability to connect at a moment’s notice makes us more productive.
On one hand I agree, but on the other hand I think the more connected we become the farther apart we get. Here are a couple of things young folks ought to keep in mind before hitting “send”:
- You might have graduated magna cum laude and have a laundry list of professional certifications on your Linkedin profile, but this will only get you so far. How are we to build credibility and trust with our managers and clients from behind a laptop? Last time I checked, you can’t download a good reputation.
- Out of sight, out of mind. Your parents dragged you to the dentist all through your childhood for good reason. Your bosses and clients want to see that beautiful smile. From a project management perspective, nothing is more important to a client than physically seeing someone working on the project for which they are paying your employer. In terms of your own managers, it’s comforting to physically see someone working. It’s also a lot easier for managers to interact with their team if they’re all in the same physical location.
- Build confidence. You’re not going to be CEO one day if you can’t talk to people. Practice makes perfect. Emailing and other electronic forms of communication prevent us from getting in front of executives and getting accustomed to interacting with important people. The folks you want impress can sense when you’re nervous.
- There's no “I” in team. Collaborative efforts work best in the absence of electronic communication. There are multiple apps out there to facilitate collaboration, delegate project tasks and share documents, but when the actual work happens, nothing beats human interaction – be it phone call or face-to-face meeting.
So here’s my challenge to you: ditch the technology. Get up and walk into your manager’s office. If you use the term “client” in your job, make a habit of spending time face-to-face with them. Pick up the phone and call your clients instead of emailing them. Telecommute less. Trust me, your efforts won’t go unnoticed.
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