Networking – when and how to begin?

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One is never without a network and if you are reading this – it may be more to know how to grow it and/or to overcome obstacles, often due to one’s level comfort with so called “networking”.

If you look at how you:

  • got the opportunity to work in your current position
  • got into your college/school
  • got your house on rent or bought your apartment

you will see that a network – formal, informal or virtual (internet based) was at play.

I will focus on growing your professional network and a few simple steps for it and not delve into specifics of social media, as all of you would be familiar with it.

First, start with your existing network – which will be your current and past colleagues, your college and school alumni, friends and family. See that you stay in touch with them, by meeting them up or electronically, if you are not in touch start right away. Sending greetings for important occasions, festivals and events is a good way to start. Make it a point to call a few of them over the commute/ weekends and work on the complete list slowly and steadily,  start at top the list again once you complete it.

What if you need to ask for a reference or a favor from a person with whom you are not in regular touch. The best way to is to be honest, there is no point in coming up with a phony reason to get in touch with them and ask for what you want. Your honesty will be appreciated, after that do thank them and make an effort to stay in touch with them. See that your nurture this set of contacts where you have already made a start.

Once, when I was looking out for a job using my network, I made it a point to call and thank all those who forwarded my resume to their contacts and I sent a book as a gift to thank all those contacts whose help took me to the interview stage. I did it without any motive and what amazed me was the warmth from these contacts in all my future interactions.

Second area to focus on are the professional events – there will be events where your technical or managerial domain will be the focus. You may be sponsored/encouraged by your organizations to attend them, do not let is pass citing an excuse of being busy. Do make time to attend a few of them. If you find that you do not have this opportunity then see that you find such events and enroll yourself.

In my experience these events certainly help you make a few contacts, you will always find a few persons whom you will find interesting and knowledgeable and connect effortlessly. The key is to nurture this – see that you follow-up with a mail and/or a call.

If you are the type who feels inhibited to make an opening, then do not worry. I was advised by one of my mentors to just listen and not worry about talking and enjoy being there. If you listen and observe intently you will find yourself talking soon. Your focus on the interactions and not on your perceived ability, does the trick. Try it a couple of times and see for yourself.

Lastly, for anything to succeed one has to have the desire, then comes the effort and discipline for achieving it. A small progress or a step with positive result, is the best encouragement for you to strive towards your goals. Do ponder on your actions and results to stay focused on continuing to do this.

One related question I hear from many of my coachees is “visibility” within the organization. More on that in a later post.

What do you think?

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