If Facebook were a country, it would be one of the most populous countries in the world. This is what networking has evolved into in the modern times. Patricia Mascarenhas explores the power of networking.
Think back to an office party you recently attended. You will recall that there were guests who seemed to know almost everyone in the room, moving from group to group with great ease, leaving no hand unshaken. The ability to relate well with others is a sign of a person`s art of networking. ”Networking is the art and science of building business relationships with strangers by developing an engaging and outgoing personality,” says Ganesh Natarajan, vice chairman and CEO, ZenSar Technologies.
Pratik Gupta, co-founder, director- New Business and Innovation, FoxyMoron also agrees, “It’s about creating an impression or absorbing from them things that will/could benefit your business or even your way of thinking,” he adds.
Today networking has become one of the most productive and enduring means to build relationships for both individuals and organisations. “It is the use of contacts to acquire information, advice, and referrals to boost your career,” says Osbert Dsouza, assistant manager, Deloitte Haskins & Sells. In a connected world like ours, it is extremely important to build new contacts and develop existing relationships for business benefit. “Most successful corporate professionals use networking as an important element of developing business,” says Natarajan.
In India the concept of networking is understood differently as compared to the west. “Individuals in the west want to expand their networks in order to grasp knowledge of various industries and connect with like-minded people. In India, on the other hand, networking is still constricted to build relationships for business benefits/profit,” says Madhur Ramani, co-founder and managing partner, Stratum Consulting.
However, this approach is now beginning to change where startups and entrepreneurs are coming together to help budding businesses. “This is called “pay it forward” where mentoring and assisting is done without expectations of obtaining something in return,” informs Ramani. While it is great to meet new people, it is not about the number of contacts you have but, the quality of the relationships you build. “The whole purpose of networking should be to establish more fruitful relationships with people in the long run,” he adds.
Apart from face to face activities like participating in forums, conferences, cocktail parties, golf etc; being part of virtual platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn, Social Samosa, The Indian Network, etc can also be productive. “There are industry associations like CII, NASSCOM and more closed user groups like the HBS Club of India and IIT and IIM alumni groups where one can hear some ideas and discover new trends within the field,” informs Natarajan. Dsouza also agrees, “Today Twitter is becoming a popular means to engage and learn about new job opening where conversations with the peers help in finding the right organisation to work with,” he adds.
Social networking plays a key role in the job hunt today. “Social platforms allow employers to get to know who you are outside the confines of a résumé and interview, while they offer job seekers the opportunity to learn about companies they want to join, connect with current and former employees,” says Gupta.
But is networking enough? In the end, it’s not about quantity, but about quality. “A smaller group of quality relationships is going to be that much more effective than a very large group of contacts that you hardly know,” says Ramani. “Networking is only the icing on the cake,” laughs Natarajan. Gupta agrees, “Networking is just half the battle. Connecting and creating relevant conversations to move forward is another.”