Over the many years that folks moved off the farm and the security of their local communities to the “big city,” a rather significant shift took place in American society. Please understand that I am an accountant by trade and not an historian, but I believe that 90% of all Americans lived on farms at the beginning of the last century and now only about 5% do.
As the automobile put Americans on the road and many of us moved to new places (I’m originally from Chicago, but lived in Indiana for many years before moving to Connecticut), the powerful sense of community that is so important to us as human beings was severely impacted. I suppose it didn’t disappear completely, but personal relationships, even within our extended families were hard to maintain in years past.
What I have not seen as fully recognized out in the world is how the advent of the Internet and the smart phone (with all its many features) has brought us all back together in ways we couldn’t have imagined previously. While this has come at a price, the benefits to me out weigh the disadvantages. I have even been able to reconnect with some long lost relatives.
As with any power tool (one of my favorite sayings is that all tools are dangerous), the power to link untold numbers of individuals to you at the “flick of a switch” has its downside if you don’t have an appreciation for how to use it.
I am a member of LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a pretty neat tool and potentially a very powerful tool for you in your career. It allows you to find old friends and to make new friends. It solves the “6 degrees of separation” problem when trying to connect with those who are not members of The FENG. The problem comes when you sign up. This tool has inadequate instructions for new members in at least two major respects.
First, some of you may have heard my rant from time to time about the lack of outgoing signatures. (Oh gosh, there he goes again.) Well, here is yet another place where I get insufficiently documented messages from “friends” who would like to connect with me. I’m sure it is possible to provide a more complete message, but except on rare occasions there isn’t much more than the name of the person inviting me.
The second problem is the ease with which you can invite EVERYONE in your address book. Now let’s think about that for a moment. Would you invite everyone in your address book to your home for dinner? There are lots of people you may have set up in your address book who you write to from time to time who you honestly shouldn’t be inviting to be part of your inner circle on LinkedIn. As an example, you might have written to someone important and to dress up your message a bit, you may have added them to your address book. Consider how many people have probably added this person to their address book and therefore how many times in a week they get invited to join someone on LinkedIn because rather than think, these folks have just offered EVERYONE in their address book the chance to be their “friend.” In their quest to establish personal friendships, they have annoyed an individual who may have been or become a valuable business contact.
The lesson here is one of “look before you leap.” I am all in favor of each of you reaching out in the right way to any fellow member of The FENG with whom you think you might be able to establish a personal relationship. That is what networking is all about. But, the key is to be selective.
Some folks are not on LinkedIn. The reason is the valid fear of being bombarded by individuals they don’t really know and honestly don’t want to know.
We have the power through these great tools to do things that weren’t possible only a few years ago. But, just like when you use a chain saw or a wood chipper, proceed with caution. You don’t want to lose a finger or a good friend by using a power tool carelessly.