As the future of work drastically changes the way organizations and workers operate, it will also transform the way we network with each other. Advances in technology such as cloud computing have already kickstarted this evolution.
When we are more connected than ever before, professional networking feels like it should be easy. Seemingly everyone wants to network, whether it’s to jumpstart their businesses or to grow their careers. As online platforms like Linkedin continue to grow exponentially, it’s becoming easier to accumulate a large number of virtual connections. But these virtual connections can only take your business so far. Seventy-two percent of people say that their impressions are impacted by how someone presents themselves in person and their handshake. In the Internet age, figuring out how to transform online connections into meaningful business opportunities can be daunting. Transforming online interactions into face-to-face networking is a big challenge, and big brands are already out there trying to solve this challenge.
Networking can happen in many different places and formats, including on social media, dedicated communities, video meet-ups, or physical events. This has many benefits, making it much more accessible to people outside of major cities, for instance, and increasing the diversity of attendees.
Now, it’s about to change repeatedly because of the rise of 5G, artificial intelligence (AI), and AR/VR.
Networking in the Right Context
One of the main reasons that professionals find themselves unsatisfied with the networking process is that they do not have enough time to do networking activities.
It’s true that in a busy world, a lot of time is spent commuting, in meetings, or working on projects. And when we do find some downtime for a coffee or a meal while we are on the go, our attention goes directly to our phones. The classic take on networking has been to use this free time to make natural connections, networking with strangers in unfamiliar settings as a way to pass the time.
Businesses build networks
Savvy businesses will take advantage of this opportunity by building networks of freelancers and contractors engaged with the company. Even when they aren’t actively working for the organization, they will still interact with it because of the community.
Networks can also benefit internal employees. Many workers now expect a consumer-level experience in their workplaces. Indeed, some schools of thought believe that organizations should begin treating their employees as internal customers. One surefire way to engage and retain them, therefore, is through a community.
Setting up a network within an organization will help employees from different departments meet and connect. It may uncover career ambitions that can be harnessed to meet future demands. Someone in HR may show an aptitude for numbers that leads them to upskill in HR analytics. Others may use the network for mentorship, find stretch opportunities, or for help and advice.
This type of network becomes more critical as businesses grow globally. Employees in large companies may not always meet and won’t know their colleagues in other offices or departments.
Connecting with customers
As marketing and advertising become more competitive, businesses may turn to networks to add value for existing customers and attract new ones. Networks can augment an organization’s customer support by providing another source of help and advice. Alternatively, setting up a network to encourage customers to share their experiences with a brand can also be looked at.
Mixed reality becomes real
Networking will get a boost when 5G and mixed reality becomes mainstream. Because 5G makes it possible to send more data to devices, streaming online content to VR, AR, and hybrid reality devices will become commonplace. Mixed reality is still relatively new compared to VR and AR; however, eventually, it will have a place in all meeting rooms.
Professional Networking Using the Dating Model
Brands are beginning to realize that common ground for networking can now be found or created on their applications. Some dating apps, which traditionally function with a “swiping” model to sort potential partners, have modified their platforms to include options for professional networking.
We’ve become accustomed to swiping left or right on potential life partners, and soon we can look at applying this for future bosses, colleagues, and mentors. Indeed, some dating platforms like Bumble have already realized this. Their dating platforms have been modified for business users, helping people quickly meet mentors, clients, suppliers, and industry peers.
This model does little to ease the initial barriers present with online networking, and often it is up to the users to develop icebreakers.
AI gets involved
Dating-style networks will pave the way for AI to get involved. People from across shores can analyze a user’s data to find their interests, career goals, and experience. An AI can then match the user to like-minded individuals. This way, networking becomes more effective and aligned to people’s interests and ambitions.
As we head into a new era of work, it’s just as crucial to focus on the stuff happening outside of the office. That includes networking, which will become more user-centric, engaging, and accessible. Technology is paving the way for many improvements, creating more significant human connections and offering more communication options.
Above all, the future of networking is about taking action through fear. The old model of networking primarily focused on privileges you already had. If you knew the right people, you got the right first opportunity. The new model of networking is based on your advancement and incremental learning. Starting from wherever you’re currently at is fine as long as you keep pushing to improve and maintain a beginner’s mindset at every step. It’s normal to feel scared or anxious about what’s coming, as it’s a normal human reaction to uncertainty. However, those who will be successful in the future are the people who continue to learn and grow.
Therefore, the future of networking will be optimized to ensure everyone is where they want to be and don’t miss out on any crucial happenings within the events. Moreover, networking events will also be more casual as we see a rise in millennials and generation Z joining the workforce. Lastly, we will see business networking become increasingly tech-enabled as technological advancements will substantially impact all aspects of event networking.
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