The Power of Professional Networking
What is a Network? Indian students everywhere will relate when I say that we don’t know about the concept of a ‘network’ until we are well into our professional career. Recruiting happens through the college’s TPO and companies come on campus in the final year to recruit students. So why do you really need a network or why should you invest any time actively to build your network?
For starters, you may already have an established network that you just aren’t aware of. Your network started to grow the day you stepped foot in your college – your peers, juniors, seniors, even your teachers form your network. However the true power of your network comes to light in the most trying times – when you need a job, when you need to move, when you need some information or insights or even when you simply need advice. In the US, much like everywhere else, a lot depends on the strength of your network, and it could be the final make or break factor for you getting the job of your dreams.
Networking is the act of fostering professional relationships and making connections with those in your career sphere and otherwise.
It doesn’t have to be awkward or time-consuming. The strongest connections are built naturally, and if it is awkward, you know it won’t last. It’s about giving and receiving help and information as needed.
So, how can you build those meaningful relationships and expand your network?
Connect with your Alumni:
Alumni are students who have walked down the road you’re on just a couple years before you are. Hence, naturally, they are more likely to empathize with and want to help students from their own college or university. Alums are always eager to give advice about navigating your career path. Connect with seniors and alums from your place of study for the highest chance of building lasting relationships.
Maintain the Relationship:
A professional connection is only as strong as the effort you put in to maintain it. Once you’ve connected with someone you relate with, put in the time to nurture that connection. Keep in touch and don’t shy away from sharing professional achievements such as securing a new job or getting a promotion – especially if they helped you in any way for it. A simple thank you note is enough to get the conversation started. At the same time, be careful about not going overboard. Talking once in a few months is enough to maintain professional relationships.
State your Interests:
When connecting with someone, it is always helpful to put forth your interest right at the start. This saves time while also setting expectations so the person you’re speaking to knows what you need help with or what you’re looking for.
Here are some things to remember when it comes to professional networking:
- Email first. No texts, calls or social media. Email is the tool for communication in companies globally and the first interaction with a professional should be via email. Other modes of communication can be explored if so agreed upon mutually by the two of you.
- Respect their time. Don’t reschedule, cancel, or worse, skip the meeting. Just like you, there are a thousand other things that your connections are juggling in their day. Be mindful of this and make every attempt to make the meeting as scheduled. However, if you must reschedule, communicate the change as early as possible.
- Follow-up emails are always a good touch. Sending a thank you note or including examples of how their advice or perspective helped adds a personal touch to your call and your connection will remember this before your next interaction with them.
- Meet if you can! Nothing helps more than face-to-face interaction, and if you discover your connection is in the same location as you, go ahead and suggest you meet for coffee if time permits. This can replace 10 phone calls in establishing a deeper relationship with your connection.
- Be professional and polite at all times. Remember that this is not friendship or personal – it is simply meant to help you in your professional career.
People always do business and want to work with people they know and trust.
Your professional network can open doors for you – often in ways you never expected. In conclusion, take time, and engage in thoughtful, quality networking.