Man is a social animal. So while we enjoy our space, our solitude and time spent with Me, myself and my tanhai, it usually doesn’t last very long. Simply because we also crave that occasional interaction, the exchange of ideas, and sometimes even passionate disagreements, just to feel alive.
And for decades, technology has aimed to fill up the virtual space between people. What started with rudimentary prototypes of phones, with a pair of tin cans and a thread, has evolved into a pocket friendly all encompassing smart phone which connects us to people anywhere, at the tip of our fingers.
This social nature makes us naturally inclined to form relationships, not just the one we are entitled to by way of family and friends, but also professional ones. And the development of this jaan pehchaan is professionally called Professional Networking.
And the hermit in you may ask Why? Why bother getting to know people over and beyond my already fully packed circle of friends and (un)/desirable family?
Well, because it pays to know the right people!
Let’s explore the why, how and the who to professionally network with, here in this article.
Why professional networking is important for career success
The answer is simple. Opportunities grow with connections. But let’s just get into the gory details of the whys, shall we?
- Let’s make some friends
Imagine your first job, which in all likelihood is not in your sweet little hometown with all your pals from your diaper days. It helps to get to know people. And what better place to start than your office? Like perhaps meeting for drinks or coffee, after work? Or even look up social meet ups for like minded professionals in your city? You may just find a gem in your new acquaintances you can resonate with and become bffs.
Yes yes it is indeed quite tempting to just curl up in your lazy boy with a coffee and your favorite TV show marathon every weekend, but it really could make a difference in your life to make new friends. Think of it as investing in a friendship now to help you in the future.
- The Inside Man(agement)
You know how people save a seat for a friend in a crowded bus? Yes, you do it too! Well a good network is built to do just that. There are jobs that are advertised and then there are jobs that are still to-be. And if you happen to have a connection in its vicinity, he might just save a seat, for your interview, way before the position gets public!
Don’t feel guilty about the favor just yet. What your network has done for you is to hand you an opportunity which would have otherwise remain hidden from you. You will still go through the usual song and dance of the hiring process.
It is true that employers too like to hire people that come recommended or with some form of surrogate reliability through an existing employee. So why not do a chance pe dance?
- Steepen the learning curve
People have a customized style of associating with others. Like when you are talking to your parents, the conversation usually lingers around whether you have had enough to eat that day. Your small talk with your aunt probably hovers around your marriage plans, even if you have none, or your parenting plans and if that boat has sailed too, then, your dinner plans. So as you can guess now, your conversations with your professional networking connections would most likely be about new ideas, what’s cooking in the current industry, what career opportunities are whizzing past by you and how to stay updated with the ever changing job environment. All major lessons to take away home, to be stashed or reused.
- Shows how keen you are
Networking is not a luxury you can choose to live without. It helps you to learn about opportunities, grow in your career and most of all it also shows your peers your eagerness to expand, if done right. ‘Coz if you are doing it right, you are not only seeking to gain from being the networker but also offering your own skills to help the networkee. A give and take, if you will.
Where, how and with whom to network: Professional networking tips
It’s hard to meet people, even with everything that’s out there to help the world shrink. So what all can you do to make it easier to grow your professional network?
- Get Online
Use professional networking sites like LinkedIn, Facebook or other social groups and forums related directly or even somewhat indirectly to your line of profession. And when you get on, don’t just participate but contribute. Your potential connections will gravitate to you only if they realize that you have something to offer too.
Write your ideas and opinions in posts visible on like minded groups, use your existing connections to connect to their’s, or even respond to relevant topics on forums like Quora. The more digital visibility you get, the more right people will find you credible enough to associate with. Read How Social Media can get you Hired?
- Networking Events
That was the digital story. Coming to the analogue version of you, you – nothing beats a personal touch. You are more likely to leave a lasting impression in a one-on-one conversation as compared to a friend request.
As the The Amber Consulting Group suggests, there is much to gain from making new relationshiops in person, rather than sending out signals over the broadband. So how to get to know new connections in real? Here are some commonly practiced and extremely well known secrets,
– Fundraising Events: Events that are designed to attract people from a certain circle, possibly in your field of interest, is a great place to hunt for talent. And while they can be expensive to get into, you can try exploring corporate discounts, if applicable.
How to know where they are? Use your online social media to search up events in town. It is most likely for a great cause and you will have a purpose, besides mingling, to hang around in it. For example, a walk or run to raise money for a charity, organized by say a venture capital company, would be a great place to meet relevant people in person.
You don’t have to immediately sell your ideas to get investments for your start up but you can try to initiate the introductions, lay the ground work for a relationship. Be interested in what they do before force feeding them your accomplishments.
– Meet Ups and Other Social Events: The same applies here too. In fact you don’t even have to show up with a hidden agenda of finding sitting ducks. Just carry on like you would on any given weekend and if you happen to meet someone possibly interesting, strike up a conversation.
– Use Your Existing Connections: Here’s your chance to get to know the friend (of a friend (of a friend (of a friend (…..)…))). Why? ‘Coz if your 1st order friend is already a match made in professional heaven, you can trust his choices then on. And just like that you have gone from a one-dimensional linear connection to a circle and finally a sphere of a professional network.
- Don’t just build and forget
Like any relationship, a professional one needs nurturing too. While turning pesky or stalker-like is absolutely not recommended, it is essential , though, to build on the network beyond the first hand shake. What is popularly advised is to keep a note, for your own benefit, of when and who you met. Then follow up later with a Hi or Whatsup to see if you have been as memorable to him as he was to you.
Keep the conversations global and casual. If you strike him as always looking to get something out of him, then it could be a potential networking suicide. And try to be useful to your network as well because you are not the only one shopping for a reliable connection. If you have something unique to offer, oblige.
Honestly, these are the same tips you might get on Match.com – How to meet someone special and fall in love? Whether you really want to fall in love is really up to you. But a good professional network can do wonders for your career. And in this day and age, it is all about who your connections are anyway.
When you meet the right persons, hand them a tin can and wait for a response with the other end glued to your ear, or just exchange business cards Whichever is easier.
Mingle Mingle like a little star!