Networking exists because humans believe in the exchange of an element to gain some form of self-worth. Humanity has been networking even before the term was born. Networking is embedded deep in our DNA and hence as years transition in to decades and decades in to generations, we essentially network in every facet of life.
Today, we can describe networking as a plethora of points established to allow us to connect within an infinite integrated web. And note, I say within because it is so vast that there is possibly no conclusion to the extent of how often we network.
What is networking?
Networking is commonly defined as enabling a connection with a common interest in mind. However, networking may potentially be an avenue to venture out in to an unknown and unexplored area where you could build a niche for yourself.
Networking is fruitful when it is self-driven and not forced. It is important to note that a lot of our actions are forced and could result in some positive outcome. However, I call out networking because the outcome of being forced in to it is dreadful and a thorough waste of everyone’s time and effort. Therefore, you need to own the ‘drive’ for it.
Now let’s digress for a moment!
How often have we encountered the first lesson of swimming to be an event we will never forget? This is because 99.9% of the time, the first thing anyone does when one learns to swim is push the potential trainee in to pool by surprise. This kick starts a series of emotions, and the unfortunate trainee struggles to rise to the surface of the pool. Now this is a classic case of ‘forced’. There is no good outcome here, the trainee will most often begin to fear, have no trust in the system and this is often a waste of effort and time for the instructor who may have a bunch of other trainees in the pool. I’m sure that close to 90% of us have experienced this and it is a classic example of what goes wrong!
Now let me circle back to the ‘drive’. For a successful networking stance, there needs to be a pulse. That pulse pushes you to move ahead and the result is your drive. And when you own the drive, you can navigate through the networking maze only to be thoroughly amazed at the outcome you achieve.
Drive + Purpose = Network Success
Once you own the drive, you need a ‘purpose’. Your purpose will stem from the following questions:
- Why have I walked in to this room?
- Is it to stay current?
- What am I here to gain?
- New content?
- Am I open to exploring new ideas?
- Problem solving?
- Who are the new groups/people?
Once you have decided your purpose, you will notice your mission will run smoothly.
Always remember every person you interact with will have a different point of view or may not necessarily hand over the information you need, but as you maneuver around the room, you will notice a theme generating and from there your mind will kick start in to ideation.
Your initial networking engagements may not necessarily derive results. Digest every word, every thought, every action, every idea and over time you will be able to extract useful inputs, relationships, connections, information and ideas to create or better your own offerings.
But this isn’t your end game, remember the ‘integrated web’, it goes deep and there is more for you to give and receive and so you need to continuously go out and network more.
Although social media has taken a front seat, you should understand that an actual face-to-face, pat on the back, handshake sort of meet is more fruitful. So do not limit your networking to Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. Go out and meet people!
Listening and re-meet
What I may have essentially described earlier is about your gain, you should know that you need to hone a very important skill for effective networking – LISTENING! Focus on how much you can help the other person. Remember networking is a give and take relationship and clearly doesn’t work if your agenda is one-sided.
Another notably important point that should be highlighted is that you should never always gravitate to the ones in the group you are familiar with, you need to move around and explore more avenues.
Know that after meeting a thousand people and listening to a million ideas, you may forget some important information. The best way to combat this is to use the back of the persons business card to pen down a one-liner or a highlight basis your interaction. This proves exceptionally useful in the future.
Networking is not just a meet and greet – it is a hope to re-meet!