The term “networking” is probably one of the most clichéd and misused terms in 21st century corporate culture. We have so many networking events going on around us that it gets confusing what it really is and how we should approach it. Keep reading to find out what networking entails in a professional context and how to make the most out of it.
1. Know the right people
Networking is all about knowing the right people and staying connected to them. There are two crucial ideas here: “the right people”and “staying connected”. The concept of right people will always vary from person to person. Right people do not necessarily have to be from one's own profession or area of expertise. As a matter of fact, having connections whose possess diverse skills and experiences is always better than having a homogenous network.
However, it is important to filter people by their inherent nature before considering them as part of the network. People who can have a positive impact on one's outlook towards life and work should always be the priority.
2. Balance contact frequency
This focuses on the “staying connected” part. How often should you buzz someone to ensure that the connection is still active without getting on their nerves? While there is no direct answer to such a delicate scenario, in my opinion, relevance is more important than a fixed frequency. So always have something to offer when you knock. This “something” can be a piece of information that might be relevant to that person or simply a link to an event or any update about a mutual acquaintance. The idea is to not appear that you contact him/her only when you need something. However, it is also important to stay in touch every once in a while even if you do not have a solid reason because once the trail gets cold, it is really hard to work back to the previous level of understanding.
3. Be genuine
We often try to fake our behaviour and actions in order to blend in with the crowd we aspire to be a part of. This turns out to be problematic in the long run since no one can keep up a ruse forever. So it is important to be your original self even if there is a slight mismatch with the general crowd. In this case, the objective should be to alter particular behaviours of ourselves if we feel the need to. It is always best to become a better version of yourself than to pretend to be someone you are not.
4. Choose events wisely
As I said in the beginning, there are so many networking events going around that it is necessary to prioritise as per one's need. Choosing which event to go to should be based on exactly what you want to get out of that event. Just meeting new people and then later adding them on Facebook or LinkedIn is a waste of time and energy. Rather, the target should be to showcase yourself in the event somehow so that people take notice. Choosing events where your skills or experience is relevant and where you can add some form of value is the most beneficial. In this way, the new people you meet will remember you positively and it will be easier to communicate with them later on.
5. Try to enjoy networking
Last but not the least, try to enjoy the concept of getting to meet new people. If you are doing it only thinking about the gains, people will soon pick up on this and start avoiding you. No one likes an opportunist. Genuinely offer to help people. Once people sense your sincerity, they will start to reciprocate and the benefits of networking will come automatically.
I will end with a firsthand story of how smart networking literally opens doors. A person I know recently landed a mid-level job at a top MNC with far less experience than what was asked for. This happened simply because the CV of this person reached the hands of the hiring manager from internal channels. The recruiter really liked his profile and wanted to meet him at least for an interview. The candidate aced the interview and landed the job. Now this would not have been possible without the magic of networking because in the regular process his CV would have been filtered out at early on for a lack of experience. So if done right, networking can do wonders.
The writer is a marketing professional currently working as a pricing strategist in a leading telecom operator. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.