A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO NETWORKING ( SOCIAL AND PROFESSIONAL)

social media icons

What networking means? Let me assure you that this is one of the very important skills required during all stages of your life. For me, this fact sunk in a little late and slowly, causing me to lose some valuable time. Here we are only concerned with social and professional networking.

Example.1

During my time with the Express Logistics, I was dealing with many large, medium, and small clients. A friend of mine gifted me a watch that could store a few telephone numbers and calculate apart from displaying an accurate time. I started to use the watch and storing telephone numbers of my good and large clients. My big clients were large multinational banks.

digital diary
Digital Dairy

As time went by, Digital Diaries began appearing everywhere. One could see these devices made by CASIO. These could store a large number of names, addresses, and phone numbers. Some of them could also store email ids. I too got myself one which was manufactured by Texas Instruments with a storage capacity of 64Gb which was far ahead of CASIO at that time. I could store an immense number of contact details. I used to carry this with me on work. My clients working in big companies were appreciating the device.

During that time a salesperson from a competing company also used to visit a few of my large clients especially the large multinational banks. He too used to carry a Digital Dairy. He too used to value his clients and serve them as well as me. He used to socialize with the clients and take them out for dinner and drinks(liquor). My company had no such provisions. It was only at that time the mobile phones and services were getting launched. Our companies bought it for us too. Though they were expensive. Both of us and our clients were valuable to our respective companies.

After some time that executive of the competing company left his company. I had retained my accounts barring some minor ones. Over some time the purchase procedures changed at the client’s place. I lost a part of my business. My friend from the competing company had started his own company and started trading with my client. That man has become a company owner. Over a few years, his business started flourishing.

Some of the managers at the client companies had moved to other companies. As they joined at good enough positions, they had started trading with my friend’s company. This was possible only because of the way he nourished his relationship with the clients over the decade which passed and all I had done was just capturing the client’s details on my device. When the device gave way, the contacts perished as they were no more than just entries on my Linkedin network. I could not monetize my contacts.

All these clients were from the large multinational bank I was quoting earlier. Due to the patronage of those large clients, my friend was able to purchase a good number of good assets from the earnings. The moral being that, it is not enough to just capture the details of the persons. You have to constantly nurture the relationship by being to be able to help them when they are in need. Then the reciprocation factor will kick in and your turn to benefit will happen. You must never erase any contact but must carry it over to a telephone index and keep in touch with them too. You should be networking effectively.

Example.2

By now I had become the Area Manager of my company. My job function included the process of appointing sales personnel for my company which was taken over by a large American company. During which an application of a candidate caught my eye. I called him for an interview. He was not from the express logistics industry. But he expressed confidence in doing well by bringing good clients for the value as per his allotted targets for the period.  I asked how he would achieve this result?

He produced a bunch of approximately 200 business cards from his bag. On the surface, those cards seemed to be of good clients. I asked him for the connection between his confidence and these business cards. He replied that he has been transacting with these clients for the past decade(ten years) and during this period he has switched three companies dealing with different products. During his time with the three companies, the decision making  Managers of these clients were still the same and he has a good rapport with all of them and this factor will help him secure the contract in our favor our company for express logistics as well.

I took him in and he performed exceedingly well. This again is proof that keeping your contacts live and nourished will always pay you. In this case, all I had to do was to arrange to impart product knowledge to our recruit. This has demonstrated the networking capabilities of my new recruit.

Example.3

At this point, I also recall my boss at that time was a great networker too. He always carried a sleek telephone index in his wallet. This was the era before mobile phones became everyone’s phone. One day as he was approaching my desk, I was fixing an appointment with a client over my desk phone. He enquired about which client I was speaking to. I told him. He took out his telephone index, dialed a number on my land phone, and spoke to a person.

handshake
Hand shake

After the initial greeting, he asked the other person to consider our company too as a contender for next year’s contract. He also mentioned that I was in touch with his company. I asked my boss for the name of the person he spoke to. To this, he replied that it was the boss of the person I was dealing with. My boss had met that person in his club over the weekend with his friend. His friend had introduced my boss to the person who was the top man at the prospective client company. My boss had introduced himself in such a way that the other person had an instant recall when my boss called. Also, he had exchanged contact details and transferred it to his telephone index.

Points for practice

eye contact picture

At this point, I must emphasize the importance of eye contact, perfect grooming, good handshake posture, and dressing for the occasion. Also, besides your ability to speak correctly with proper diction, pronunciation, and grammar is essential. One has to be remarkable for the other person to recall your identity later. The above points enable you to network effectively, be it social or professionalized get to the top.

This comes with practice in front of the mirror in the bedroom. It is a great investment for a lifetime. You will find quite a few videos on Youtube and from real persons is daily life. But practice over time is the key. I don’t say that change must be overnight. It is a process.

With the above incidents in my life, I realized the importance of effective Networking. It is not sufficient to just expand our number of contacts and recording details. Yes, every contact is valuable. The contact may be of the social or professional kind.

Pointers for social networking

Your Social network is a structure made up of social actors, your relatives, friends, along with their social contacts. One can meet these people in various functions and parties, weddings, funerals. You must get to know this group of people. You should know your family. Nowadays the trend of nuclear families in most countries has replaced the joint family system and people have lost touch with relatives, neighbors, and friends of families. This too is an important group. You should be able to draw your family tree to understand family legacies.

Do stay in touch with them. You can never know when you may need to speak to which person in which city and for what purpose. This group of people can be kept in touch with various social networking platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Whatsapp. It is worth your time to get yourself familiar with social media platforms especially with widespread coverage of the world with the Internet.

Pointers for professional networking

business seminar

During our daily activities, you will be in constant contact with a lot of people. Some of you will meet people at a scheduled meeting or other business meetings or seminars. They may be colleagues or business contacts. It is very important to network with your colleagues. An organization is a collection of a lot of people with many skills of which you have a few of them. You can know about a lot of skillsets of others and you have an opportunity to display yours. Your awareness is increased about various skill sets.

By having a good relationship with all others at your organization you have a better chance of getting included in any special or new projects as others will feel comfortable as you have networked with them. Your networking with your colleagues will improve two of your skills tremendously – communication skills and interpersonal skills. You will go a long way with these two skills in life.

Due to this factor, I landed a job. My manager joined another company and he hired me to be part of his team. This was possible because I had kept a good rapport with him and he became familiar with my skill sets.

Linkedin logo

In the present era, you must network with your colleagues and other professional contacts on a social networking platform – Linkedin. Your potential employer or business contact will want to have a look at your Linkedin profile to know about you before meeting you. Ensure that you learn to optimize your social and personal profiles on all platforms including Linkedin. Do not hesitate to ask for recommendations from your contacts and colleagues. You too must provide when requested by others.

Networking with your professional contacts should be done in a skilled manner to get to the top. Your profile, right from your photograph must be optimized for a proper impression on you. This too you can learn from a lot of videos from Youtube. There you will be guided on how you should fill the other details too. This is an example of one such video.

You should make a sincere attempt to engage with a maximum number of people at the social events of your relatives and friends. You should also be able to exchange contact details or business cards if the occasion is an official meeting or gathering, training session, or a seminar.

General pointers

Assuming that you have collected contact details or business cards from a good number of individuals, it will be a big pile of them over some time. And these are people who may be from all walks of life. Imagine a situation that you need to talk to a person two years after your first and only meeting. In all probability, he or she may not be able to place you as there is no recall of having met you.  

It is because you were not remarkable neither visibly nor verbally for the recall, nor was any attempt made to refresh the contact. How to do that?  Keeping the recall is in your hands. Keeping the contact live is an art. One must strive to be of use or offer to help the other person by any means. In that case, the recall will be available. You have to make your self visible to them once in a while either to wish them and enquire about their welfare.

Always be on the lookout to be useful to as many people as possible. Help others in need of the maximum level possible. This is need not be financial unless it is affordable.

I am an introvert, how can I do it?

Now some of you may say,” I cannot do this, as I am an  introvert.” Let me tell you that introverts are better at this. An extrovert may talk more than needed. I am an introvert. I thought that I can’t talk to people. I learned by using a technique. If you need something, you have to ask someone. Whether you are introverted or extroverted. Just talk. I learned to talk to people. Yes, it is a gradual process. If you are hungry, will you ask for food. or stay hungry. Constant practice made me pick up the nuances of networking. Treat the person in front of you like a button that will make you start speaking. This is a mental process which will come by practice.

More pointers

When you are introduced to a person at a first meeting, be it social or business contact, there are certain rules to be followed without exception. You should be dressed for the occasion. It is better to be overdressed. One should invest in proper clothing. Also not to forget grooming. One will automatically get confident when facing other people at the meeting when he or she is hygienically groomed and dressed well. Do mind your hair too. It should be washed and combed properly to suit the occasion.

I used to practice this part in front of my bedroom mirror. I used to assess the clothes and grooming. I used to practice my intro with a small microcassette player in those days. I now see people using their mobile phones for this purpose. Of course one should polish his or her language skills.

If you have been invited to a place for a certain event, the dress code may be specified. Or else make an effort to find out from genuine sources. Always adhere to the dress code. Adhering to the dress code also helps in effective networking. I have witnessed some premises which have declined entry to some individuals as they were not as per the dress code of the premises, though they were known to the organizers of the event.

Always be on time for the event. Ideally, you must try to be a few minutes early. If you have carry invitation cards, entry passes, or identity cards of any kind of tags, please carry them also display them to avoid any time loss on this account causing delays in entry to the event. It is important to wish your contacts on your arrival and before your exit from the even. All this adds to the positive recall.

Apart from investing in presentable dress and footwear, do invest in a thick telephone index and a calendar diary. The contact details should be entered immediately in it. You may be aware of or attending events of birthdays, weddings. Ensure that you wish the people on these occasions either by cards or over a phone call. Nowadays the social media platforms have provisions to greet and wish people on such occasions.

Now let me conclude. All of you might be aware of the number of entries to fill out while adding a new contact in Microsoft Outlook. If you can fill all the columns, in all probability you will have a long and fruitful relationship with that person. Please have a look at that if you are not yet aware. You may not be able to complete all columns at our first attempt. It is a process. One you expand on the details, the opportunities expand too.

Is there anything left?

You must have understood the importance and methods of social and professional networking to get to the top. You may always come back and leave your queries and comments here. This is not a detailed guide but an outline. Based on your feedback, I may do a Part II for this or write on an allied subject.

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