The networking conundrum: How and why of growing and nurturing it

Author: Janani Sampath

Till recently, I was hesitant to make that courtesy call or send a warm greeting on an acquaintance’s or former colleague’s special day. I thought, “What if they think I am just sending a feeler to ask for a favor? Do I look like an opportunist?”

I held myself back for many years before my friend sat me down and explained that I was reading too much into things. “How else do you stay in people’s list of contacts?” she asked. It was a simple question, and she was right. What I had been evading was the basics of networking—staying connected.

She also explained that for introverts or extroverts, networking is essential to grow not just professionally but also personally. “Imagine! You are moving about in your tiny circle. How do you know what’s beyond? Making time to wish on special days is one way to know the developments. People will know what you are up to. What if they have an interesting job proposition to tell you about in that courtesy conversation or a trend that might interest you,” she explained.

And, yes that wise friend’s wise advice has opened up an endless world of possibilities for me today. I am on different platforms connecting with different types of people, enriching my network, and staying connected with people I have not met and those whom I know for years.

Social media and professional networking platforms offer the flexibility to make our circles depending on our needs and purposes.

Create and market a brand: The advantage of the plethora of options is that it helps create our brand. I have a friend who runs an investing firm. He uses one social media platform to only discuss investments and stocks. Today, his Twitter handle has over 20,000 followers as he is seen as a go-to person for stock-related inputs. However, the same person on Facebook uses the platform to develop a network among movie buffs like him. This is a perfect example of effectively creating a brand in two different ways—professional and personal.

Receive and return: Networking is also a two-way street. When we receive information and sometimes help through the network, it is also imperative to give back. Many will look up to us for advice or guidance. By listening and interacting patiently to show them the way we are considered reliable. The give and take across different groups will lead to new pathways.

Spend time for networking: While we often network on an ad hoc basis, planned networking makes a big difference. Allotting time makes networking consistent and meaningful. If we want to engage with a group of people more, the schedule will give us the necessary time to plan the necessary steps. It is more than just resharing the posts.

Networking is not just about reaching out to people and staying connected. It is about leveraging the contacts to nurture and grow our professional path. Planning and investing time and energy is imperative in today’s transient times when often out of sight means out of mind.