20 Jan 2012, 7:20pm
Careers
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Networking is nothing but building relationships

I remember my first day at the B-school, where I was told briefly what networking is all about. You have to confidently go and say Hi. After that you introduce yourself and offer a handshake, smiling at the same time. Next, you ask about the other person, and how they are doing. Appear to be interested in what they are saying. Ask some questions, and get their business card. Then move on to the next person to network. I did this a few times, and found it too mechanical. It felt as if networking is a strategy to get as many business cards as possible.

My mind asked me “Why do I need to network?”. The only answer I could give at that time was I needed a full time job, and you get jobs through networking. A lot of people approach networking from a point of view of finding jobs, building business, getting consulting projects. It’s always about getting something from the contact.

Another question that came to my mind was “How many people I should network with?”. “As many as possible”, was the answer. The more people you know the better is your chance of getting that thing you are looking for. Having studied probability theory during my undergrad, I agreed.

Finally, I also asked, “I am just going and meeting people and I have been doing that all my life. Suddenly, people are teaching me networking. Is networking any different from what I have been doing.” No…It wasn’t. Then why was I made to learn this new art.

The more I thought about these questions, the more confused I became and Networking just seemed to be a superficial way of knowing people, as opposed to building relationships that I had known. I couldn’t get enough business cards. I also realized that people sense when you have a hidden motive for networking, and the relationship goes downhill from there. In other words, I was an utter networking failure.

Having gone through so much confusion about networking, I thought there must be a better way to figure it all out. I applied a top-down approach for that:

Why do I need to do networking?

=> To get contacts, full time job, build my business, etc.

How will I get these things through networking?

=> The people who I network with would refer me or directly buy something.

Then I asked, what would make them refer me or buy from me?

=> Only if they trust me, in my abilities; only if they really know me.

 

Now, if people have to really know you well to be able to refer you or buy from you, you can’t get that through the networking method B-school taught me.

What would make people really know me to have faith in my abilities?

=> They are my relatives.

=> They know I graduated from such a such premier school.

OR

=> They have talked to me, have been with me for some time, and have seen that I can provide some real value.

 

So, this actually turned networking on its head. Instead of you looking to get something, you have to first provide some real value for people to know you, have faith in you and then and only then will they be able to provide long lasting value to you.

 

My other two questions answered also got answered from this.

How many People should I network with? If I have to provide value, I have to spend time with someone, know what they want and so, it’s better to have 2-3 good contacts from a meeting, as opposed to having 15 business cards.

Is it any different from relationship building?

– No. It is not. It is exactly what you have been doing with friends and relatives.

As opposed to building superficial contacts list, networking is about knowing people, building relationships and providing value to others. Once you form relationships and some bonding, you can then get referrals and business effortlessly.

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