In my role at Villanova University’s Career Center, I have the altogether stressful yet enormously satisfying duty of planning our university-wide career fairs on campus. We wrapped up our first of these earlier in September, and after all the resumes were filed and business cards exchanged, I got to thinking about why events like these are so important. Our motto for this year’s fairs is “Real Life Connections, Real World Opportunities,” and I think that phrase says it all for me.
I mentioned in a post from the conference that I am a Millennial; part of the “tech-obsessed” and “wildly ambitious” generation that wants to wear flip-flops to work (for the record, I much prefer boat shoes to flip flops, and I’m a fan of professional dress). I think social media is a great way to communicate, Google Hangouts are amazing and I am blown away by what we can do with virtual meetings, conferences and career fairs. But, still, there’s nothing better to me than doing something or meeting someone in real life, or “IRL” as I’d say on Twitter. I think this is key in recruiting, too.
Why do the “real life connections” matter? Here’s what I’ve come up with:
1.) A 2010 New York Times article, “Evidence That Little Touches Do Mean So Much,” mentions numerous studies which demonstrate that physical touch “can lead to clear, almost immediate changes in how people think and behave.” As we all know, how one appears and sounds are important. But, that all-important handshake at a networking event is truly all-important. The physical touch adds another dimension to the communication.
2.) Meeting in real life can inspire more trust between people, one Forbes columnist found in her own research. It seems there’s something about bringing the connection to life, real life, that makes people more generous toward each other. I remember when I had my first real “tweetup.” In 2009, I met Shannon Kelly on Twitter. We were both running social media accounts for our career centers, and frankly, we were trying to figure out how to make it all work. We stayed in touch, and eventually I met her in her office at Penn Career Services in 2010. Did it make me trust her more? Though I wasn’t measuring that at the time, I believe it did. It was a step in building a connection and resulting friendship that I value very much now. Similarly, I see the excitement in students as they get the opportunity to meet with recruiters and professionals after reading about them online.
3.) Sometimes, things you wear or carry are key conversation starters. An Inc Magazine author commented on the fact that a pink faux ostrich bag she bought has brought her several compliments and started conversations with people. I doubt that pink faux ostrich would ever look good on me, but I can certainly say that I’ve been surprised when people have commented on my new shoes, new pants, lunch bags, etc. when I had no intention of making a statement with them. Details like these just might not be captured virtually. There’s another benefit to meeting in person.
Technology is incredible. Virtual meetings are great. But, when it comes to making a connection, nothing beats real life. What do you think, NACE blog readers?