Networking isn’t solely just for “businessmen and businesswomen” anymore – it’s for everyone. Take networking out of the business context and it is simply known as communicating or communication. People communicate every day, verbally and non-verbally. The importance of communication has been undermined by the increase in mobile penetration – more communication takes place via text apps such as WhatsApp, Viber and telegram, as compared to face-to-face.
The art of networking and communication in business context is often deemed as “giving to get” and it involves six components:
1. SHARING YOUR KNOWLEDGE AND INFLUENCE TO HELP OTHERS
Like the mandarin saying goes,
huó dào lǎo, xué dào lǎo
Live till you’re old, learn till you’re old
In other words, it’s never too late to learn. Often the most common and basic practice is sharing existing knowledge with others. Knowledge is power and what better way to share knowledge than through networking? Previous and/or current job experiences can contribute to the sharing sessions. More experienced people with bountiful job experiences use can influence positively and spur you on to do greater things. If you have sizeable experience, do not overpower – listen out, help out and you may just discover/learn something new.
2. UNCOVERING UNADVERTISED JOB OPPORTUNITIES
Networking skills are essential to every balanced job search. These days, hiring managers and decision makers are more likely to talk to candidates who have been recommended by someone they know and trust. In some cases, they might also be looking to hire individuals under the radar without having to make big announcements as competitors might suspect change. Networking relies heavily on personal value and interactions to make a lasting impression so that whenever an opportunity presents itself, top-of-mind individuals come out tops.
3. MAKING NEW CONTACTS
Networking events are great because you get out of your usual social and business circles and get introduced to different individuals who interact in different circles. It’s a good place to meet new people and learn more about the industry that they’re in, and their specific expertise. Making new contacts is always beneficial because you broaden your pool of individuals, who bring along a specific set of expertise and experience. With a broader network, comes more opportunities for business and learning. Again, it is important to know how to carry yourself professionally and project a character that is approachable and competent at the same time.
4. OBTAINING REFERRALS
Everyone that we interact, will probably go on to interact with hundreds, even thousands more. Networking relies on leveraging on the external networks of other people, to help push you through the door to become a player in the specific network. Social skills and etiquette come into play here as we should make a good impression by having a warm, friendly and genuine personality. We also must appear knowledgeable and competent in our respective fields and expertise. Lastly, we also must constantly react to different individuals that we encounter, and tone down or up our personality accordingly. It’s impossible to know everyone that there is to know in an industry, so the quickest way to get your name out there is to have people talk about and remember you.
5. GAINING INTERVIEW PRACTICE
Networking events and opportunities are good areas to practice speaking and interpersonal skills. We must be able to build rapport with individuals that we have not interacted with before, and we have to start conversations that do not come across as disingenuous. It is very common for people to stay away from networking events, as they are often unable to navigate the social dynamics of such an event. However, getting comfortable with speaking to people is a skill that comes along with practice and time.
6. LEARNING MORE ABOUT A POSITION, ORGANIZATION AND INDUSTRY
With every new individual that we meet, they each have different experience in various positions and industries. Networking is a good way to learn more insight into a particular industry or company from an individual who has actually ‘been there, done that’! Due to the separation of social or even lifestyle circles, there are a plethora of people that we will never be able to meet, and networking events serve as a good platform to start at, to get to know more people. The art of communication can never be more important here, as we must treat individuals with respect and care and not merely treat them as a means to an end.