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This article was first published 13 years ago

Seven golden rules of networking

Last updated on: January 11, 2011 11:18 IST

Image: Networking opens up great opportunities. Here is how you can get it right
Parul Banka

Everyone wants to network but may not know how to go about it. Parul Banka tells us the things one must and mustn't do to get it right.

Networking is the new buzzword in dictionaries of most people these days, particularly working professionals. Networking can help enhance your job search and career growth. The crux of networking is how one can connect with likeminded people for mutual benefit. Let us understand some key benefits of networking and then go on to some key traits required for effective networking.

Key benefits of effective networking are:

Access to information and ideas: Let's say that you want to decide if you should study mechanical or computer engineering. Talking to students, who are studying in these particular streams, would help you make a more informed decision. It also helps to remain abreast of industry trends and learn from each other.

New opportunities: Networking helps to keep you on top of mind recall and to get opportunities. I remember that I had received one of the projects for summer internship during college as I had expressed my desire to work with a particular organisation. One of the managers there remembered my call and asked me to come for a discussion. The discussion clicked and I was able to secure the project.

Now let's look at some of the traits we should have for effective networking...

Illustrations: Uttam Ghosh

About the writer: Parul Banka is a Human Resources and Training professional

Networking should be mutually beneficial

Image: Netowrking cannot be a one-way traffic
Photographs: Rediff Archives

Speaking vs listening: I remember meeting a man recently, who was dynamic, successful and had lot of interesting stories to share.

I listened to him with interest for about 30 minutes, when I realised that the only opportunities I got to speak were to respond to his close ended questions yes, no, wow!

He just did not seem interested in listening to me! My interest started waning as the conversation had actually turned out to be a monologue.

Mutually beneficial: Networking should be mutually beneficial. If you expect people to help you out, while you want to escape doing the same, let me tell you it will not work.

Remember, when you network for business, you are interacting with people who are not your family or friends.

Therefore, the benefit of free support that comes from kith and kin should not be expected.

Networking is not about scratching each other's back; it is about resolving issues and creating new things through synergy.

Don't be disrespectful or demeaning

Image: Just because you know everything there is to know you needn't have a chip on your shoulder

Sound sincere and not demeaning: I recently attended a conference on HR and training. I noticed that there was a gentleman who kept to himself and hardly spoke.

I thought maybe he was finding it difficult to initiate conversation amidst so many strangers. I decided to break the ice and went over to speak to him. When I offered my hand for a handshake, I received a cold look and a 'I am holier than thou' frown. I felt a little uncomfortable but I hung on for some time.

He was definitely a knowledgeable person but I repeatedly found his comments or responses to my conversation demeaning. After a while, I moved away. He had just violated the golden rule of networking: Do not sound disrespectful or demeaning to others.

Invest in relationships: Some time ago, one of my friends was looking for a job as she had moved to a different location. She requested for help from some friends and colleagues.

All that she wanted was for them to forward her CV to the recruitment/HR team in their respective organisations.

Ironically, she discovered that some of these old time colleagues found it too much hard work and stopped taking her calls or responding to her emails. Of course, at the same time there were strangers who were more than willing to help and provide support in whatever way possible.

From a networking stand point, there are a couple of things that we could learn from her experience:

Remember, no matter what the reason is being unresponsive is equivalent to being unprofessional.

An 'I can't do this for you' would have definitely been preferred over an ignored call or email. There have been instances when people have said the former to me and vice versa. We keep in touch and are willing to provide support, when the other person needs it. But relationships quickly succumb to no-response scenarios.

Remember that networking only introduces you to new people. But like other relationships, meaningful networking demands time and effort from both parties.

I think we would be more willing to help those with whom we could enjoy a symbiotic relationship.

I know of a person, who works as a recruiter with a leading organisation. She has been extremely successful as a recruiter.

I once asked her how she manages to hire the best of candidates. Amongst other things that she told me, one was her networking skills. She shared that once she gets in touch with a person who she finds capable, she keeps in touch with him/her, irrespective of whether the person is looking for work.

She mentioned that she had recruited many people much later after getting in touch with them or was able to get fabulous referrals from them.

Networking is for everyone

Image: Networking is not just for the hot shots and businessmen. It is for common people like us too

Believe that networking is for everyone: Many people tend to think that networking is only for those running businesses or are in senior positions.

That is not the case. Networking is for everyone and helps at every level.

Remember it is all about bringing people together and helping the cause by building bridges. We should build network with our seniors, juniors as well as peers. Someone I knew was planning to do MBA and networked with the alumni of multiple colleges before deciding on which colleges to apply.

Be in touch: Networking is about reaching out to people and connecting with them often; the frequency may depend on many factors. Having a connection in your personal diary or online directory and not talking for more than a year may not be of much use. Such a contact may not be a real contact.

Deliver if you commit: This is my personal favourite as it sounds very simple, yet is ignored time and again! Like any other association, networking would work for you only if commitments are closely followed by delivery.

Follow the tips mentioned above and make that large stack of business cards or hundreds of online connections work for you!