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Topic Tuesday: Networking In The Digital Age

Stephen Kennedy

Last week, my colleague Saira Kahn wrote a post, posing the question “Is the art of networking dead?” citing a recent networking event where her peers’ heads were more frequently fixed on their smartphone than the face of the people they were meeting. She was struck by the fact that among attendees, the interaction in the room seemed to be more focused on speaking with one another on Twitter than in real-life dialog. What has happened to our ability to interact?

Last night I guest lectured to a Communication class at a local university. While not necessarily a “networking” event by definition, my role was to talk about PR and introduce the class – made up of comm and marketing majors – to our agency. I even lead with the fact that we are currently accepting both intern and entry level applications. Despite this, there was very little dialog or interaction. Stopping frequently to ask if there were any questions or specific facets of the field/job they were interested in learning more about, I was met with faces checking laptops (Facebook/Twitter undoubtedly) and smartphones. Again, this wasn’t a networking event, but I would have expected that the students would take the opportunity to ask a few questions and try to learn a bit more about the “real world” of PR before beginning internships or their career. Again, I realize this wasn’t networking per say, but I was struck by the influence of technology and its ability to remove human interaction.

Certainly technology is not all bad. It grants access to people and companies we once could not reach. LinkedIn has transformed recruiting. It is not uncommon to lead a conversation with “do we have any mutual Facebook friends?” But despite all of this, I am left with the same question Saira broached last week…is the art of networking dead?

So we turn to you UBT readers. Vote in today’s Weekly Poll (at right) to tell how whether technology has helped or hurt networking. We also invite you to join today’s #TopicTuesday conversation about #networking over on Twitter. Happy voting. CJP

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