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The dos and don'ts of effective networking
Trina Mukherjee |
November 10, 2004
t is no longer enough to just know your job.
If you plan on some quick career jumps, you have to know what opportunities are available to you as well.
You also have to know and connect with those who can help you make the best of those opportunities or challenges.
'Who' you know is no longer important. 'What' (you know about them) is.
In other words, you have to network effectively.
Networking in all spheres, professional and social, can make all the difference at your work place.
Your networking skills can help you do a better job and climb the ladder to increased success. Here's how:
1. Reach out. Stay connected
The key to good networking, as marketing gurus say, is to reach out to as many people and links as possible. Continuing to stay in touch is just as important.
In Questions Are The Answers, a book on effective network marketing, author and body language and human communication expert Allan Pease lists his five cardinal rules to effective networking.
Rules 1, 2 and 3 simply state: See More People.
(Rule 4 suggests you use the law of averages to your advantage while Rule 5 insists you improve on those averages.)
Says Issac Jacob, vice president, head of marketing, Tata Asset Management Limited, "The service business provides you with many opportunities [to network]. And effective networking will definitely enhance your performance."
Jacob cites, as an example, a single portal that offers multiple channels or services. "To provide so many links and services -- like online shopping, e-mail and mobile facilities -- it is imperative that you link up with partner channels, service providers and vendors. There is no other way to do this but connect and just network," he explains.
2. Meet, talk and listen
You may meet 10 persons through the course of your day.
It is only after you have spoken to all of them and listened to what they have to say that you will know who is important for you and who you will find useful. No one is too insignificant, too old, too young, too vague or too remote until you have spoken and interacted with them.
"You must know how to choose the right contacts as you meet and interact with people. This will enable you to connect with a larger audience or group," says Jacob.
3. Same and different levels
There is no such thing as the right time or the right place to meet the right people.
You may meet them at your workplace or at social dos.
Remember, though, effective networking is a two-way channel.
It all depends on the 'specific needs of one party or the other', says R D'Souza, head of corporate communications, Cadbury's, Mumbai. "You may or may not consciously network, but you have to understand clearly your needs or requirements so that you can avail of the right opportunities," he says.
Network with your own sort and reach out to those who are beyond your professional realm.
Ultimately, this helps you build effective relationships and share crucial information, ideas and resources.
4. Communication skills
What you have to say depends a lot on how you say it.
Also, if you develop your communication skills, you will not only win contacts and clients but friends for life.
Says Madhuri Sen, general manager of Text-100, a PR firm catering to BPOs and other technology-driven companies, "My job demands that I interact constantly with different kinds of people.
"I will meet them as long as I need to in my professional capacity. But, ultimately, I will stay in touch only with the people I like and those who are useful or important to me and vice-versa. Networking is not about schmoozing.
"I might meet people who may be resourceful at parties and dos, but they may or may not be part of my social network."
If you are consciously networking at parties or within your social circle, learn to speak both concisely and well. More important, listen to what others have to say. Everybody likes a good listener and a good speaker, but no one can stand a show-off or a bore.
5. Be your best
Face it: People size you up during the first 15 seconds after you are introduced.
So put your best foot forward. Always!
"Contacts are important in your life. Like it or not, you need them to succeed as much as they need you to move on. Be positive about it. And show that positive attitude," says Diya Kochchar, manager of distribution at a corporate house.
6. Negative networking?
This may be peculiar to India as most people here do not believe, or admit, that networking should be done for the sake of networking.
"I would call it like-minded people connecting," says Madhuri Sen, who does not believe in 'hardcore networking', which means keeping an impressive score of names, contacts or referrals.
"The vibes are equally important," adds Sen.
Kochchar and D'Souza also agree that networking is not the be-all and end-all of one's job; but it is definitely a significant part of it.
7. Give and receive
There is no need to cringe when you hear, "I scratch your back and you scratch mine."
This is a mere reinvention of the barter system of the Stone Age!
In his Seven Spiritual Laws Of Success, Deepak Chopra applies the universal law of giving to active networking.
'The universe operates through dynamic exchange... giving and receiving are different aspects of the flow of energy. In our willingness to give that which we seek, we keep the abundance of the universe circulating in our lives,' he says.
Give in order to receive.
"When we speak of value addition, providing better service or simply delivering the goods to the satisfaction of one and all, we cannot ignore the importance of channels, resources, link-ups and increasing avenues of communication and contacts," says Issac Jacob.
Effective networking strategies will ensure that you finetune these elements into a cohesive art form and get the most out of your life and work.
Do's and don'ts for effective networking
~Meet people. Meet more people. Call, send e-mails, notes and cards. But the best way is, almost always, to call in person.
~Circulate when you meet a group at an official meet or seminar. Don't stick to the one or two people you know. Introduce yourself to as many new people as possible.
~Appear likeable and approachable. Be positive not brash, friendly not overtly flattering. Speak about yourself and your work without bragging. Listen to what other people have to say.
~Follow up on prospective contacts without hounding them. Make a call, fix up an appointment and proceed.
~Call your contacts at regular intervals. It can be once a week, once a month or once in three months. But a friendly follow-up is a must to keep your network alive.
~Don't presume or make imaginary distinctions while meeting people. No one should be dismissed as too unimportant or useless or vague before you actually meet them. Draw your conclusions after you have spoken to them.
~Don't ramble or go off-track when describing your work objectives. After a short prologue about yourself and your job, go straight to the point. Stop and explain anything that needs to be elaborated on or if you find your interlocutor looking confused.
~Listen to what people have to say. Try and counter questions, doubts or scepticism with sound, logical explanations. Don't try to fool around with facts, but do stress on your strengths.
~Be positive, clear and attentive. In the case of a particularly unpleasant encounter, remember this may be the last time you are meeting that person. On the other hand, it could be the beginning of a rich long-term association!
Do you have networking tips? Share them with us!
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh