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How important is your mobile phone to your career?

Phillipa Holland gives her account of what it has been like without a mobile phone for the past few months and the impact it has had on her personal and working life.

I am one of the first to condemn the level to which technology has become synonymous with the average person’s daily life. Don’t get me wrong, I am most definitely not a technophobe and enjoy my screen time as much as the next person, but it does seem that people are now incapable of waiting in line, walking down the street or even enjoying a meal with friends or family without having some form of mobile device successfully vying for their attention. But after one night in late January I would quickly come to realise how, as much as I would hate to admit it, my phone was somewhat crucial to how I lived my life.

We have long joked about how the Fellows and Associates team is cursed when it comes to technology and how, without fail, one of us will lose/break something each year. I have always been the exception to this rule with most of my past phones naturally coming to the end of their lifespan, whilst other members of the team have succumbed quite spectacularly (cue stories about toilets and swimming pools), however it seems my time had finally arrived earlier this year and I was separated from my electronic right hand.

It is probably worth pointing out that I was not completely without a phone during the months that followed but was using a replacement that was not equipped with the bells, whistles and (most importantly) memory that I was used to. The lack of memory meant that most of the apps that I used for both work and my personal life had to be sacrificed and I was left with what was essentially an early generation mobile phone with simple call and messaging functionality. I quickly realised that reaching for my phone had become unconscious second nature when I was no longer able to tweet from an event, Instagram or upload my Fitbit stats for that day.

An important part of my role is being easily contactable by clients and candidates, as well as having the ability to respond quickly to incoming emails (you never know when that elusive electronics candidate will show their face). My stubborn nature prevented me from replacing my lost phone with an equivalent model straight away and naively I told myself that having a working SIM and access to my emails would cover all the required bases. However, when travelling to London for a meeting and the lack of compatible apps prevented me from downloading an attached document from an email, it became glaringly obvious that my stand-in was lacking in a lot of areas. I mean what’s the use of being able to contact someone if you can’t download the CV to retrieve their phone number in the first place? I had taken for granted the number of administrative tasks I had entrusted to my phone and the ease at which I could transition from working on my computer to a mobile device. Microsoft Office, Adobe Reader and even travel essential Google Maps were all luxuries I could not afford, and my working day became much more compartmentalised when I no longer had the ability to reply to an email when away from my desk. Certain tasks came with a higher level of urgency and needed be completed as soon as I had the opportunity, especially if received on a Friday evening and now could no longer be dealt with until Monday morning. Disclaimer - I’m not expected to work on the weekends but there are instances where having access to my emails on a Sunday are beneficial, such as the elusive electronics patent attorney scenario I mentioned earlier. 

There’s also the alarming rate at which the battery would drain, reducing my already subpar travel companion to a paperweight before I had even arrived at my destination. Even when equipped with a charger and working power outlet I was still forced to leave certain tasks until I returned to the office as the lack of memory and older operating system resulted in numerous crashes and infuriatingly slow loading times.

We invest a lot of time in the Fellows and Associates’ on line presence and so not having access to Twitter and LinkedIn when attending events was quite a frustration as all messages had to be communicated before or after the fact. Coupled with this was the low quality camera I was now armed with, resulting in me taking a brief hiatus from posting images. Something I knew needed to be resolved with the INTA Annual Meeting around the corner and the barrage of tweets and photos that accompanied it.

With my head no longer suffering from ‘smartphone neck’ I noticed the amount and length of time people around me would reach for their phones, viewing their friends and ‘friends’ lives through their social media feeds, and the quick check of the screen became much more pronounced when I wasn’t able to occupy my own time doing the same. I was also able to gauge the degree to which my friends and family, and even clients and candidates, interacted with me solely through avenues other than a call or text message. Some knew within the hour that something was amiss when their Whataspp message was not followed by a blue tick, others had no idea.

I finally conceded earlier this month and invested in a shiny new device with all the bells, whistles and memory (yay) of its predecessor. Although I am happily back on line and can Google the weather in Jakarta (just because), my Fitbit stats are synced and I can tweet and Instagram to my heart’s content, I am also making a conscious effort to reduce my reliance on my phone when and where I can. But I’ll probably still be watching cat videos on YouTube next time my train is delayed.

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