If Facebook were a country, it would be the third most populous in the world. This is what networking has evolved into in the modern world. It effectively means that corporate networking is much more important now that the person you were searching for being a mere mouse click away.
It has, of course, always been vital for professional success. Also understand that the adage 'it's not about what you know but who you know' is no longer true with the workforce more intelligent and better trained than ever. Networking is about setting up and maintaining relationships with professionals.
Networking, in the context of one's career, is about finding the right person at the right time. Whether it is for a business deal or involves identifying vendors, suppliers, employees or Mr. Fix-it to solve a problem.
For most, the biggest motive for networking is to find a job they need when they need it. This is because experienced and successful job seekers know what most recruitment consultants do.
|The best time to start networking is when you're free and you do not need an immediate favour from the person you're to meet with.|
A majority of jobs, especially the best ones, never make it to the market. They are invariably filled up by people who are known and trusted. Someone with an internal referral is preferred over a stranger.THE RIGHT TIME
Walk into any networking event and you'll see frenzied exchanges of visiting cards. That does as much for building a network as going through the Yellow Pages. To network effectively, cultivate a genuine interest in the people you meet.
Your interactions with family, friends, colleagues, clients, peers and neighbours are excellent occasions for learning more about them and their professions.
Ask open-ended questions and take note of their answers. Each interaction is an opportunity to find common ground and create the foundation of an effective network.
HOW DO YOUR MEET THESE PEOPLE?
Start with your present contacts and ask for references. A second degree network offers the best potential for building relationships. In the professional space, participate actively in trade organisations, industry meetings and related events. Reach out to former colleagues, vendors, clients, bosses and even the competition.
Volunteer for non-profit and social activities and reconnect with alumni associations. Finally, use online resources to set up and expand your network. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are the most widely used social and professional networking tools, making them the platforms of choice to dig out a lost contact, friend or acquaintance.
This builds your reputation and encourages people to invest in your success. Each time you expend effort in establishing new contacts, make sure that you build up on the effort by following through.
DOs and DON'Ts
Set goals for networking, say five new contacts a week and revisiting 10 old ones. Be prepared for networking opportunities. Keep your business cards and resume handy at all times.
Remember that people like to help out and expect to be thanked. Use the first meeting for gathering information and building a relationship; business can follow. Find out ways to help out people in your network with useful leads. Find a mentor for yourself and people you can mentor. While on the Net, be polite and cautious while commenting.
Share information about yourself and create a positive, sober brand. Do not bad mouth anybody as it destroys your own credibility. Seek information, suggestions and referrals instead of a direct request for a job.
Finally, respect the other person's time and keep your interactions brief.
To enhance the reach and quality of your network, enhance your visibility by getting involved in activities beyond your work and offer your services and advice to people who ask for it. Professional networking is possibly the single most important skill that contributes to your career development.
Be persistent, stay organised and pay attention to detail to make the most of your web of contacts.
The writer is CEO, Quetzal Verify, an HR solutions company run by IIM-Ahmedabad alumni.
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