By Ernst H. Gemassmer
We all intuitively believe in maintaining personal and business contacts, but most of us don’t do well in this area. It takes real time and hard work to maintain contacts. Social networking can help, but a large list of online friends and followers is no substitute for a smaller list of personal and ongoing business relationships.
As background, I attended several educational institutions both in the US and abroad. My professional life started with a BS in Chemistry, an MA in International Relations and a Master of Business Administration. This provided me with a good education and numerous important contacts around the world.
Over the years I also lived in different parts of the US and abroad, meeting all the usual challenges of raising kids, changing jobs, buying and selling houses and trying to stay fit. I was totally focused on family and jobs. This was often challenging since a significant amount of my time was spent on business trips around the world, participating actively in the emerging global economy.
Changing jobs as I moved up the corporate ladder generally involved a move to a new location with all the associated tasks and challenges. Old colleagues, neighbors and friends were soon forgotten and I made almost no effort to stay in touch. The new environment kept me so busy that I had a good excuse for not keeping up with them. The higher I climbed in a corporate hierarchy the less time I had, or claimed to have, for thinking about the past, or keeping in touch.
For expediency I started to use various consultants to investigate and address current issues and provide me with information to make critical business decisions. It was simpler and more expedient to use third parties, rather than relying on my personal contacts. Using so called experts and well known consulting firms provided a degree of legitimacy, which would have been harder to achieve with less well known personal contacts.
Eventually I retired and had an opportunity to think about how I treated my personal, academic and professional contacts. Now that I had spare time I started to re-engage with educational institutions, professional organizations, neighbors and old friends. However, I found out quickly that special groups had formed over the years, and I was not involved in their formation, development or growth. Thus, it became a real challenge to re-engage with them and took a lot more effort than I had anticipated.
Many of my younger friends use various social networks on a daily basis and think that they will thereby avoid this problem. Obviously they disseminate a lot of information through these networks. However, these ‘updates’ are in small snippets or photos and lack detailed information. They are also somewhat impersonal since they are directed at such a wide and relatively public audience.
In my personal opinion such networks are useful tools, but do not replace dedicated personal contacts. If I had to do it over again, I would dedicate a certain amount of time, all the time, to keeping up with the development and evolution of all of my contacts. Don’t let the technology fool you into thinking you can take shortcuts. Believe me, the personal touch still pays big dividends!