There’s No Substitute for Genuine Social Interaction

 

A few years ago my father passed away, at the young age of 67, from a long and painful battle with emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). After this happened, of course, I made a post to Facebook to let friends and family know what had happened. Several sentiments of sympathy came my way. I read and appreciated every one of them. Some posts were more meaningful than others–ones where people relayed funny stories/moments with my dad were the best. These anecdotes were comforting and helped me focus on the good times, not just the tremendous loss.

Dad and I at a Chiefs Game in 1993

Dad and I at a Chiefs Game in 1993

After several months went by I was left feeling unsatisfied and unsupported as I was dealing with the grief of losing a parent. Death of a loved one is one of life’s most stressful situations along with getting a divorce, losing a job, or dealing with a major illness.

Psychologists often note there are many ways to deal with the loss of a loved one. What I learned, by going through this tough situation, was the social media posts were a poor substitute for the genuine social interaction that would have been helpful. Thankfully my wife was incredibly supportive and given our 20+ year history we were able to reminisce a lot about all the good times we had with my dad. This has been a tremendous help for sure.

What would have helped even more? Talking face-to-face (or on the phone even) with close friends and family about my dad and hearing them tell some of the funny stories and good times we all went through collectively. After the initial Facebook responses there were few (meaning zero) follow-ups or check-in’s. There were very few meaningful social interactions where I was able to work through the loss of my father. Unfortunately this is a sign of the times and I’m quite sure my story isn’t unique.

The lesson here is social media only goes so far and is NOT a substitute for genuine social interaction. In the business world genuine social connection is also key for career growth, success, and overall job satisfaction. One way to connect with others is to be a part of a local association like the Northwest Recruiter’s Association (NWRA). If you aren’t currently a member of a group like the NWRA it isn’t your fault, there are powerful factors that make it increasingly hard to be involved in a group like the NWRA. But if I may let me make an argument as to why you should be a part of a professional organization.

The Work World often De-Values Human Connection

 

In the same way that when we deal with personal problems we need social interaction and connection, in our professional lives we also must have ample social interaction to get the most out of our potential and get assistance when we run into bumps in the road (or road closures that require a major detour). The problem is there are many forces beyond our control that work against promoting human connectivity.

Work can be Isolating - Just ask Milton

Work can be Isolating – Just ask Milton

Human beings are social animals and must have social interactions to be fully human. This is a social-psychological fact that can get lost in our current climate. What’s more, quality social interactions also help our brains to fully develop, which in turn gives us the opportunity to acquire empathy and self-regulation. Empathy is a very important trait that recruiters must have to be effective. Surgeon & Journalist Dr. Atul Gawande sums it up perfectly:

Human beings are social creatures. We are social not just in the trivial sense that we like company, and not just in the obvious sense that we each depend on others. We are social in a more elemental way: simply to exist as a normal human being requires interaction with other people. 

So, in the work world, what factors are leading us down the path of less not more social connectivity? The list is a long one, but here are four things to think about:

  • We Change Jobs Often – Study after study shows that the average American worker will change jobs like 8 times over the course of their working lives. Every time we change jobs it is likely we will lose touch with our previous co-workers.
  • We Rely too much on Social Media in Lieu of Actual ‘Real’ Face-to-Face Interactions – Social media has completely changed how people in our society communicate and interact with one another. So often situations that used to be handled by a face-to-face meeting are instead ‘worked out’ over a social media platform. The fact is emails, tweets, and Facebook posts can’t provide the same experience as good old fashioned human interaction.
  • We Work Remotely More and More and Don’t Have as many Opportunities for Connection – Given a plethora of reasons more of us are working at home (or in some other remote location alone). One disadvantage of this is there are fewer opportunities to connect with co-workers, mentors, clients, or customers. If we aren’t careful we can get isolated and disconnected quickly.
  • The Number of Hours we are Working Continues to Increase – At least in America, the 40-hour work week is completely dead. Most full-time workers are working 50, 60 or even 70+ hours per week. When we do this there is little time left for attending social gatherings or getting connected to a local recruiting organization.  

Therefore, we have a bit of a dilemma here. We may be aware that we should be more connected to others (and being part of a professional organization would be great), but the current pressures of work push us towards not becoming part of groups that could really boost our career growth and overall happiness. Maybe it’s time to access how you work and think about joining a group like the Northwest Recruiter’s Association. What you can gain from being a member of a professional group might surprise you.

The Power of Local Groups for Career Growth & Connectivity

 

There are many positive effects of being part of a recruiting organization like the NWRA, here are four that stuck out to me.

Career Growth & Connection Require Socialization

Career Growth & Connection Require Socialization

1. Networking & Career Growth – Recruiting is all about growing your personal network and so the more connections you can make with like-minded professionals the better. It’s also great to ‘talk-shop’ with people that are working at different companies or are working in a variety of recruiting situations–for instance agency vs. corporate recruiters. You may be working for an agency now, but not know much about the corporate recruiting world. By getting connected to the Northwest Recruiter’s Association you will meet people serving in all kinds of roles in the recruiting world.

2. Educational Opportunities to Grow your Skills – One universal trend in work, over the past couple of decades, is how technology has impacted all jobs and so everyone needs to be constantly learning new techniques, strategies, and skills to stay relevant and productive in their jobs. Recruiters are in this boat as well. If you are still using Excel files to organize your candidates it’s going to be really hard to compete with recruiters who have access to a full-featured applicant tracking system. By connecting with other professionals you will be informed of the latest and greatest tools to help you be an awesome recruiter.

3. Support Group for the Tough Times – Being a recruiter is a hard job, period. There are going to be times where you are going to benefit from having a social network of ‘friends in the business’ to help you out when things are difficult. Just like when I lost my dad and the Facebook posts weren’t sufficient – when you are dealing with struggles in your business a phone conversation or coffee meeting is going to be much more meaningful than a few supportive texts. Where will you have met that person? Likely from a group like the NWRA.

4. Break from the Grind – Another amazing benefit of being part of professional groups is the chance to get out of the office and just relax a little. Work is often stressful and anytime we can find to step away, have a meal and a beverage is good. There is more to life than work and often we need to be reminded of this fact.

 

The Take-Away

 

There is no substitute for meaningful face-to-face interactions and just like we crave them in our personal lives we also need to encourage connection in our professional lives. Getting involved in a local professional group that has regular events or meetings can be incredibly valuable.

Do some research and figure out what local groups exist for your professional industry and figure out a way to get involved. It can be easy to get isolated and feel overwhelmed in our jobs. We need the assistance of others to help keep us going and remind us we aren’t alone. And fortunately, there are many people that truly love helping others achieve their career goals. All they need is for someone to ask.

Further, if you are already a part of a group your job is to invite people to your association’s events and find creative ways to incentivize the ‘non-believers’. Once they come to a couple of events they will see and, more importantly, “feel” the value of the group. For more information on the Northwest Recruiter’s Association check them out HERE. NWRA is also active on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

 

“All men and women are in need of help and depend on one another. Human solidarity is the necessary condition for the unfolding of any one individual” – Sociologist Erich Fromm in The Art of Loving (1956)