Networking is the buzzword these days. It is the informal ladder to the stars. Don’t just wait for performance at the office to work wonders for you. People in your line of work can also prove very beneficial. So go out and build your contacts
It's all about people. It's about networking and being nice to people and not burning any bridges.
Mike Davidson, CEO, Newsvine
Networking is an essential component of planning a successful career. It is about making contacts, seeking other people’s help to flourish, and in turn helping others flourish. It would be arrogant to assume one can make it big in life without the assistance of others. Yet the art of networking does not get much importance in most of the MBA courses. These courses emphasise on the hard work an individual must put in to get ahead or outperform competitors. They forget to mention the difference between scoring well in exams and availing the opportunities the world has to offer.
Therefore, you should look out for opportunities to interact with people at conferences, events, and even over the internet. You don’t want to miss out on the various job openings which are never advertised. Many companies follow this policy. Instead of advertising a vacancy, they offer financial incentives to people who help them recruit efficient employees. Moreover, most of the employers prefer hiring people they know of, like someone they met at a conference.
Myths about networking
Networking is a one way process wherein a person uses other people for self advancement.
Good networkers never believe in or follow such principles. They do not constantly think of their profit and career while networking with people. They are inquisitive to know people and to find out what people are thinking. Far from being a self centered approach, networking is about connecting interesting people and ideas.
Networking with a senior person would be more useful.
Some people think they should enter the waters only to catch big fishes. This approach is fundamentally wrong and will never bring success. Different people have different things to share. Often more low key players have the more interesting ideas and contacts. So explore all options and in general be ready to help.
Good networking must pay off right away.
Absolutely wrong! For good networkers, it is an ongoing process which must build long-term relationships. It is different from investing in the share market. It is about knitting a network for life, and the process never ends. This network comes in handy at various times in life. However, an impatient approach never works. You go for a conference one day, happen to meet two people and they help you out within a week, after which you think you are over with networking. This is a non-sustainable approach. You always need to follow up on your contacts and stay connected.
This is how you go about networking
Networking is an art. Some people are born with it while others need a little guidance and practice. Handing out business cards every now and then does not constitute networking. The secret is to make the meeting memorable. If you don’t then your business cards will be lost in a pile somewhere. Here are some tips for good networking:
• Be prepared beforehand with a verbal business card. You should not draw a blank in front of your potential contact. In stressed situations your spontaneity often fails you. So be ready with a few lines about yourself and your skills.
• Try to put aside your personal agendas. Your contact is more likely to remember you if you listen well. People like talking about themselves. Let them do that and you can rise up a few notches in their estimation. Take interest in the other person instead of straight away asking them about job openings! Get hold of their business cards.
• You should know your target contacts before the conference. Search for their profile online. They will be impressed to realise that you know about them. This saves time at the conference as you would already know whom to approach.
• Make sure you are not standing in a corner wondering what to do. Chat with the person sitting next to you, use your supervisor’s contacts, attend every possible event during the conference, never miss lunch and always eat with someone as people bond well over meals. You can be sure of meeting more people this way.
• Try to get noticed so that people become curious to talk to you. Ask relevant questions to a presenter or give a talk yourself. Spend your time helping out others.
• Suggest meeting for coffee later instead of talking shop at the conference. People meet lots of other people at such conferences and therefore, tend to forget who all they met. You will be fresh in the person’s mind if you are successful in arranging a meeting sometime after the conference. You could even promise to send them a link or a copy of something they are interested in. It is a good strategy for keeping in touch with them.
• Do not always seek personal benefit while talking to people. You could even make small talk instead of talking about big business issues. Humour helps but don’t get too informal. The other person will find you more interesting. Always end a conversation nicely by thanking the other person for their time and walk away into the crowd. Do not end with an awkward silence.
• Keep promises you make while networking and always follow up on your contacts later. Maintain a record of all your contacts.
• Networking can be done online as well on sites like Linkedin.