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Is there a way to build meaningful relationships in digital age of isolation?

Is there a way to build meaningful relationships in digital age of isolation?

Two weeks ago, in HR Happy Hour podcast the topic under discussion was, “in the digital age of Isolation, how do great leaders make connections?”. The invited guest speaker was Dan Schawbel, a business book author who was there to promote his recent book in this area, Back to Human.

But this question of “how do we create meaningful connections in digital age of isolation” is definitely a question that made me think a lot.

Not necessarily in the context our personal network which we build outside of work, which is also an interesting area to discuss, but more within the scene of professional environment.

How do we build meaningful connections and lasting relationships within our acquired professional network?

Platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn gives us enormous possibility to find, reach and add people to our network across the globe. But from this vast network of acquaintances and introductions, how many do we actually know for real, seems to be a valid question. The human part of establishing connections is not as quickly scalable and effortless as the technology part of it.

My LinkedIn self has more than 4000 connections while my real self is struggling to maintain a good relationship with 20 interesting professionals within my network.

Balancing the online and offline presence

Maral Kalajian, a brilliant networker, marketer, influencer and one of the most connected friends of mine, always advices me to balance the offline and online part of networking to not lose its meaning.

While technology helps us find what people do and where they are, the human responsibility is going there and being for them. That’s how trust and relationships are built.

So, as a personal goal for 2019, I am trying to think out loud on how do I build meaningful relationships from my sea of acquaintances and I would like to share a few ways that came to mind and ask your thoughts on it.

1) Shared Learning — Connecting to expand and exchange knowledge

Language café (SpråkCafe) across Europe has set a very interesting example to build relationships through teaching and learning. My friend Anna Vorontsova, has been organizing Russian-Swedish language exchange meetup for the past 8 years outside of her work inviting Russian and Swedish speakers to come together and exchange their language skills through practice. In this journey, she has built an amazing network of friends across the two nationalities.

How can we replicate this magic within the professional realm? Is there a way to maximize shared learning or skill exchange within our networks?

For instance, if I’m ready to teach the basics of recruitment and is there a way for me to learn, how to reduce candidate acquisition cost with social media campaigns from a marketing expert?

2) Participating in needed initiatives

When we are asked to list great people, we always try to respond with globally recognised legends say, Nelson Mandela or Martin Luther King Jr. But recently I was challenged by a colleague to look for great people around me, in my office, in the events I attend and amongst the people I talk. That changed a lot of perspectives on how I view people around me.

3 years ago, one of my LinkedIn connections, Andreas Wennberg started an initiative called 400Contacts where he tried to systemize coaching to newcomers in Sweden on how to address the challenges of job market. I thought this was commendable initiative. So, I reached out to him to support his cause.

Today he’s my friend and colleague at work doing wonders as Sting’s talent manager. And most importantly through his initiative he has helped 1000s of job seekers with valuable insights, tools and support.

So, finding initiatives within our professional realm and interest and supporting them seems to be an amazing way to build relationships.

3) Semi-formal small gatherings with purpose — belonging to community

When I was asking a few investors and business coaches in my network on how they build and maintain professional relationships, they said by organising semi-formal gatherings like a private dinner once or twice a year is a great way to stay in touch with people within the network and also invite few new acquaintances to get to know them better.

Minimising the total number of guests and finding a common professional theme is a great way to inculcate effective conversations and build relationships within specific members of our network.

Skill/ niched Meetups also seem to be a great way to build great connections with mutual professional interest.

Last month Barry O’BrienDavid Turnbull and Jesper Petersson organized Growth Hacker Meetup with the theme of Bring your own Problems. The stage was opened for attendees to present the challenges/problem related to marketing, communication or growth hacking and the members in the audience participated in pitching intriguing solutions to solve it.

4) At least one lunch a week — to explore the edges

In our daily work, we often are in the middle of stable processes, working tools and tested systems that deliver consistent results. But in the edges of our professional/ technical domain are the startups, researchers and the innovators experimenting to break the boundaries. It is always inspiring to take up one lunch a week to meet with them and exchange ideas and perspectives.

There’s a great mutual benefit here. We want to know the novelties within our niche or domain and the founders would love to hear an expert perspective on their product/service.

Several user testing or beta testing events that have started to happen in Stockholm are a great start for this. Also, it would be interesting to know if initiatives like Lunchin add value within this area.

5) Appreciating and Paying-it-forward

As new connections come in, we tend to lose touch with the people who mattered the most in different phases of our career.

Especially for me as an international professional from abroad working in Stockholm the first 5 people who trusted me with opportunities are very special and I always regret of not reminding myself more of how grateful I should be for them.

This empathy and gratefulness when reminded always spring up compassionate gesture to trust our new connections with opportunities they seek.

Altruism, paying-it-forward or whatever we may call it, ensuring we give enough opportunities for people around us to succeed, is the best gift we can share. May it be mentorship, feedback, coaching or sharing knowledge, encouraging striving talents in our network to take their next step, is the best way to build lasting professional relationships.

The unautomatable traits of building connections will be the human parts of compassion, empathy and trust and so it would be great to think on where and how we can invest them consciously.

I’m no way writing this post as an expert but as a result of my self-guilt and desire to improve myself in this area. As I was thinking out loud in this topic, I wanted to include you and as a part of my network and request your opinion, input, ideas on how we can stay better connected in real life as we are in the digital space. What do you think?

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