In recent years we have seen an exponential growth in social networking products around us – the world is communicating through Orkut, Facebook, Myspace, Second life and a myriad of other options available for an internet user to stay online all day and forget about the real world. Measuring just how effective these applications are is highly a matter of perspective.
Lets talk a little bit about Professional Networking, and that too from the perspective of building and using it to enhance our careers, without focusing on the tools available for it. So lets get started.
What is Professional Networking ?
In simple words it is making acquaintances within your professional circle or domain. It is different from social networking in that it requires a different kind of input from our end and the relationship might not be as informal as a social network.
Why do I need to build a Professional Network?
Now I know the first concern for most readers, specifically young students and new professionals will be, why should I even care? “I got good grades, I have a decent job, why should I spend my time building relationships with people who I am not directly related to or friends with?” Well, the simplest reason is that the network will benefit your career immensely. Most of the jobs around the world are filled through references – someone who knows more people within his career domain will have a better chance of getting a good offer and a good job as compared to a person who has not built that level of credibility and network, even if that person is a better professional. During the short course of my career I have seen a number of great professionals without good job offers and who are consistently stuck at lower salaries and ranks. An undeniable factor for their stagnant careers is the fact that they did not take their time to build a professional network around them consequently missing out on opportunities that came around. Often these opportunities are taken up by less-skilled people who are better at making relationships and leveraging them for their benefit when needed.
What are the benefits?
The benefits of building a strong network of friends inside your professional circle are many: You get better opportunities, your credibility inside the circle of your profession increases manifold, you stay on top of whats happening in your domain. Particularly for technology people where things change rapidly, this really eases out the pressure of staying on top all the time. If you have a good network you might not even need to move a finger to be aware of recent happenings, all your links in your network will do that for you. People who dream of being self-employed can also use this to their advantage – networking is required to survive in this cruel world – you need people who will guide, help, assist, refer and even thrash (if you are going in the wrong direction) you.
How to go about Building the Network?
There are more than one ways of doing this. I will mention some and I am sure our active readers will complete the list.
1. Blogging, this recently has grown into a powerful tool in building your credential as a good professional. If you know what you are doing and think you can stand all kinds of criticism go out and shout, people will listen to you, perhaps abuse you or even guide you but will eventually befriend you.
2. Be selfless, if you help someone today without any reward, that person will actually become your agent and will popularize you like no PR campaign can. As an example, if you take time to guide students without asking any favors in return or lend a listening ear to someone in trouble, or help in whatever ways you are good at, those people will really appreciate and remember you. You will have your own personal evangelists!
3. Be Professional, if you write a blog do it with passion, if you comment on someone else’s blog do it professionally, never make personal attacks. Always carry yourself gracefully since these thing not only enhance your image but also help other people notice your professionalism.
4. Keep your Integrity intact, never ever stab someone in his back to get personal gains. If you offend one person unethically, a lot more people may never speak well about you, which may with time create hurdles in your professional growth. This works like dominoes, trust me.
5. Be compassionate, this is applicable to professional networking as much as it is to social networking. If you like something praise generously, if you want to give advice do so without offending the other person or making him feel or look bad. No patronizing please.
6. Keep Active Contact with the existing network, I see students coming out of college and losing contact with their own classmates within months of graduating and shrinking their networks by the day. This is suicidal, never let someone out of your circle and always keep active contact with them.
Proper networking can become a powerful tool and asset which when done properly can take you places, so start building your network today.