As the world is becoming more competitive each day, it has become imperative to understand one’s strengths and weaknesses at an early stage. Be it business, technology, hospitality, healthcare, you name it – interacting with the industry players on a regular basis has become a necessity. It is often said that there is nothing called ‘early-stage’ in the networking world, and I can’t agree more to it.
I started networking when I started my MBA here in the US. Initially, when I was in India- doing my bachelors in technology, I never knew about this concept. We had campus placements, where companies used to come and recruit students directly. But as I stepped in to the US, the concept of networking felt like a really difficult and hard to achieve skill set. Yes, it is a skill set – which cannot be taught, but has to be acquired – through several failed attempts and following a ‘hit-and-trial’ mechanism, initially.
Through these few years in the US, I have acquired a good sense of networking, and wish to share a few points with you – which you might find helpful:
- Network with a clear-cut idea: Networking is a very broad concept, and it often leads to be delusional. You can talk to 100 people and not get anything out of it, or you can talk to 5 people and land up to a great job or a mentor/mentee. You have to foresee yourself as to which industry you want to be in the next 5 years, which field do you want to work. Target those professionals and mentors, who are directly involved in those functional areas. LinkedIn can be a great tool to find these professionals.
- Research before you go to the meeting: Please do your homework before you leave your place for the meeting. Do a brief research on the industry, the company where the person works, what are the points you want to touch on – create a small list of agendas. Do not go with a blank face, it’s insulting to the other person, and is definitely a waste of his/her time.
- Do not network assuming that you will get the job: One very flawed thought process that persists in the minds of early networkers is that, if you network with Person ‘A’, then Person ‘A’ will hire you. You should not network with the thought process that you will get hired. It might be possible, and is great if that happens; but the main fundamental of networking is to know and learn from each other. Each of the networkers should help the other to connect with the right contact. In this case, Person ‘A’ if not hiring, connecting you with person ‘B’ who is hiring. As you can see, networking is about connecting the dots, or connecting the right consumer with the right resource.
- Network to know your ‘Net-Worth’: Sometimes talking with a highly knowledgeable and experienced professional, can actually tell you your worth. While talking to the person, make mental notes of the things he/she says, what are the things you already know, and what are the things you do not. Don’t be afraid to ask for explanations for the things you don’t know, that is a great habit to exercise. Ask questions. Sometimes talking can also shape your perspective towards something, or clear some blurry images in your mind.
- Jot down points in a diary/log: Once you go back home after your networking session, write down the points you discussed, in detail. The things you liked, disliked, the opportunities that can be tapped on, and the follow back questions. In a way, try to create a written dialogue/memo of what happened/discussed during the session.
- Follow back: It is very important to follow back with the person you networked, in 24 hours duration. If you have any questions, or if he/she talked about connecting you with someone else – then this email can be a gentle reminder as well. Do not forget to thank them for their time. Don’t be scared to email them sometimes to stay in touch, or else you will be soon forgotten. But don’t overdo it – just the right amount of emails.
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