The term ‘networking’ started holding increasing importance in my life after I was out of jobs for some time here. Whomever I met would tell me to go to these ‘networking’ events. Being an ardent believer of hard work and glamorous resumes, I had restricted my “networking” skills to “social” networking over Facebook and Linkedin.
However recently I went to two such events (I am not out of jobs), I am realizing the value and the worth of sustained networking. Before I state my case for increasing importance of networking, here is a statistic to ponder on: in US and Canada 80% of jobs are found through networking. I am sure figures would be drastically aligned in India as well. However, in my eight years of work experience in India, I never participated in “networking.” Some of my friends did, but it was definitely not as mainstream as it is here in the West.
What is networking?
Social gatherings essentially. But it can be individual, informal, or gala type sponsored events. It is a culture of meeting up with people who interest you at a professional level. So how does this work? Well with the social media in your hands you can organize a gathering, or to start with, you can register in networking events going on in your vicinity. You can ask your boss to buy your tickets, or once in a while, you purchase it yourself.
A lot of these are even free of cost! Like you, most people you would meet at an event would have an ulterior purpose. Be it discussing a business idea to a venture capitalist, be it finding new clients, be it marketing your newly launched book or website, or scoring brownie points in your university assignment. But you do not want to say it out loud, “Hey, by the way, I came here only because I wanted to handout my newly printed business cards.” (people occasionally say that as well!!! )
Why would I go to a networking event?
Formal networking events generally have a structure. Like a presentation, speech, along with evening tea and snacks, or brunch! People share stories of their successes, failures, risks. You have the chance to meet and interact with people of your industry. Learn about what is happening, what are the general trends. You get to meet industry leaders and hear their inspiring stories. It is a great feeling just also to realize that they are people too, and like you, they are even going through a journey to put two and two together.
It makes you more confident about yourself. When was the last time you introduced yourself to someone? Probably in the previous job interview (Tell me something about yourself!)? Well if you are thinking of making a move, you can get a lot of ground practice! You get to introduce yourself to many people within a span of 15-20 seconds. There your elevator pitch is now ready!
When someone appreciates what you do at work, or the industry you are part of from an outsiders point of view, it makes you feel, yes I am probably on the right track.
And finally, of course, because you get to meet a lot of people. You hear stories, you make connections, and people can put a person behind your name next time they come across your Linkedin profile.
But don’t expect an offer letter when you walk out of an event.
However, the worst time to start networking is when you are desperate for a job or something! Networking works best when you are settled in your path. You make connections and follow up. And next time you are in the job market, there are people who you know might be looking for someone like you. Or maybe you get a brilliant idea about the business venture you have been dreaming about. Make it about people and experience, and networking will make you feel you are not alone in your journey. Others are treading the same convoluted path. And it is a great feeling to have, especially on rainy days.
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