Whether you’re on the top of the game at your workplace or you’re a fresh graduate looking for jobs, networking online and offline will come handy when you really need it. Unfortunately there are no fixed rules for increasing your opportunities through networking. But one thing’s for sure – in India, you can’t afford to leave all your networking to social media alone. In-person networking, referrals and recommendations through word of mouth still play a very crucial role. Let’s take a look at 5 tips on how to let networking bring you real results.
Don’t exchange business cards without really building contact
The minute you think that you’ve got to enter a networking drinks party or a dinner armed with 3-4 sets of business cards aiming to distribute them all, you’re making a big mistake. Most people think that more the cards they’ve distributed, the better they’ve networked. You’re not selling wares in a shop that giving our more business cards can make you more successful. In fact, aiming to do this will only make you embarrassed when you see people throwing your cards in the bin before they walk out of the venue. You have to make real connections in order to get people to follow up with you and vice versa. Someone who has your business card has to be able to correlate your face with your card after a few weeks. Your impression has to be lasting enough. Sanjeev Verma, Executive VP, Global Sales and Business Operations, says that before making a pitch,
“First, you need to understand the business of the other person and what his requirements are, and then try to see how they align to yours.” [Source]
Follow up by syncing online with offline
Networking holds no meaning without proper follow up. You can even have a systematic follow up procedure in place. After the first round of networking, whether online or in person, make sure you send out a generic email offering gracious words and courtesy of having met each other. Add select people you meet to your social media platforms, read up about them, follow their interests, make comments that catch their eye, share articles and feeds with them which may represent your passion and so on. Once you establish this rapport, fix an appointment and meet for lunch or coffee if possible and if required. Attend various networking events where you get seen by them repeatedly so that you can build a further rapport. Anuja Sinha, CSR Manager at Arvind Mills says,
"Managers are likely to recommend someone they’ve met rather than someone who they’ve just conversed with online." [Source]
Don’t look like a leech
If you happen to get an opportunity to network with someone a lot senior to you or a corporate magnate who you’ve admired all your life, it is understandably extremely tempting to ask them for some advice on your career, nuggets of wisdom on what you should do and what you shouldn’t and so on. Don’t make this mistake. Professionals tend to get put off by novices or juniors trying to flesh of advice off them for free, even if it isn’t their intention to do so. If you have specific questions to ask them while you network, take their appointment and meet them later. In the time you spend networking with them, focus on how you could make a lasting impression.
Don’t leave networking for the last minute
Very few people in the corporate world network because they are passionate about it. Most people do with a latent purpose and rightfully so. But if the purpose of your networking is extremely clear, then start work on it right away. If you want to land up an internship in a particular company, you need to give your networking the seeding time of at least 6-8 months. You can’t erratically start meeting people or sending bulk emails just a week or two before you expect the internship to start.
It is a continuous process and you will see the results of networking only when you’ve really invested time and effort in it.
Find Mentors / Shadow a senior
Mentorship programs are gradually finding dedicated commitment in Indian B-schools, but they have been very popular concepts in the West where junior managers or business students are assigned mentors who are professionally working people. They get hands-on training under them, get introduced to their mentor’s contacts and learn how to walk the business talk with their mentors. For instance, The Joy of Giving Week in association with ISB, Hyderabad and various other B-schools in India has been running a similar Shadow a CEO program since 2009. Under this program, students get to spend a full working day with a top Indian CEO. Even if you are not a student, you can request a senior manager for his/her informal mentorship. This could be a great way to start building up your networking base, if walking into the venue of a networking event seems to overwhelming and intimidating in the beginning.