Monday, January 18, 2010

Just Another Explorer: Is Professional Networking Important???

Dear Friends

I am writing this article, because I have recently observed my friends from premier B Schools like IIMS & ISB, and premier engineering colleges like IITs and very good career path in top positions of leading MNCs not able to get the opportunities, which they deserve. The point is that they don’t know how to search for this options. In other words, they don’t have good professional networking skills.

Now, professional networking or any type of networking can’t be taught, it is inborne skill. But, yes you can sensitize the one and help the one to discover the skill within.

I am not claiming, that I am expert in Professional Networking, but I have my own ways, which have proved to be effective. So, via this mail I would like to share my ways of professional networking. And would like to receive feedback from you guys, which will help me to further improve my skills. Anyone can connect with me via my email id
aggawal.prabal@gmail.com or via my linkedin profile http://in.linkedin.com/in/prabalaggarwal.

Now the starting point of any networking is the will, the urge to network. It can’t be created, it has to be within oneself. I have seen my friends, sitting at home for an year, after being laid off during recession. They will continuously use the job portals like
www.naukri.com and monsterindia.com, but to no avail. At these times, they try to meet people who are decision makers in good MNCs via their personal contacts, or via sites like www.linkedin.com. But, do you really think that somebody just met me at party or at linkedin, and next thing he does is talk about a job option from me. Will I help such a guy?? The answer in most cases is no. Till I don’t know that guy for a fair amount of time, I wont help him. So, the point is that network, can’t be and shouldn’t be built overnight. It needs continuous efforts and time.

Now, the medium for professional networking could be many. It could be attending professional seminars, it could be alumni or batchmates meets, it could be emails, it could be professional networking platforms like linkedin. And true networking, needs combination of all of them.

I will tell now my ways.

Few years ago, when I was doing my engineering, one of the professionals told me to keep visiting cards. I was totally shocked, how do u expect a graduate student to keep a visiting card. But he had his own point, that this may seem odd but its an investment. And when I joined MBA, this advice came very handy. Not many, students in my institute used to have visiting cards. I used to keep it, though it used to pinch my pocket. It helped me to keep in touch with lot of high fi professionals, I met during seminars organized by TIE and NEN. Then, sometimes it so happened, that during the vivas, I came across a professor, who was external faculty or unknown to me. I used to introduce myself, by exchanging a visiting cards with him. It may seem odd, but believe me I did it. And this used to take the viva on altogether at different platform (mostly I got better marksJ ). Now, since last ten years from my engineering days, I never used to throw a visiting card, I always used to store it. You never know, who could be of help to you, in future. So, this was the section covering importance of visiting cards, especially for students.

Now, there was a time, when I had my first official email id during my first job. And then best use of it (apart from official work), was forwarding interesting mails. I used to be in the race of sending most interesting mails to my friends, and vice versa. These mails could be good pictures, some masala news, some funny mails, some videos and what not. But, I observed, that most of colleagues when left the organization, they never used to send the mails , as they earlier used to. Second aspect was, that these things seemed good, while in start of career, but later on as the responsibilities grew, I used to grow irritated, by continuous flux of mails in my inbox. The reason was simple, that they were irrelevant mails to me, and they didn’t help me in any way at all. Gradually, it so happened that the friends who used to send these sort of stuff to me, I slowly started deleting their mails even without reading. I learnt from this behaviour. It so happened, that when I left my first job and subsequent second job, on my last day, I made a list of people, with whom I would like to be in touch in future. And the best and cheapest way, was emails. But what type of emails, how not to get marked as a spammer?? The idea clicked me, that one the email should be good one, which adds value to the receiver, and secondly, it should be infrequent. So, I made a list of email ids. This feature is easily available in all the frequently used mail services like yahoo. I made a lists or groups of email ids by tagging them with relevant nick names like company 1, company 2,…. Or mba friends, engg friends…. Then being an MBA grad, I had a wide repository of business articles. I used to send the best articles to my groups, in 2 to 3 months time. Not earlier than that. And it used to be continuous. This lead me to stay in touch with hundreds of ex colleagues even after 5 years of leaving the job. I still get mails, from these colleagues, that how come you haven’t sent an interesting email, since last few months. I keep on getting calls, from them, sometimes after 3-4 years. But it’s always a good surprise. So idea, is that you can use emails as a good source of touchbase with your ex colleagues or friends, without being marked as a spammer, on the contrary creating respect for your communication. But, still there may be many of the people, who doesn’t value it or still are not in touch with you. One can’t please everyone!!! Clapping happens, when both the hands participate, if one person is not interested in networking with you, you can’t force him to.


Then, the next way to do networking is participating in professional seminars or alumni meets. Now, I was ardent participant in all the free professional seminars organized by NEN and TIE. Apart from it, I used to participate in conferences, which were of my interest, and which my pocket allowed me to. The biggest challenge I faced, when I came back to Delhi, after completing my MBA in Mumbai. I lost touch with quite a few batchmates of my engineering, and now most of my MBA mates were in Mumbai. And it was the time, I was looking out for socializing and to expand network. Instead of waiting, for somebody to take initiative, I initiated Delhi Chapters of my engineering as wells as my MBA college in Delhi. This led to frequent meets of these chapters, where I was able to network not only with my batchmates, but with quite a seniors as well as quite a juniors. This actually expanded my network to a great extent. So, idea is don’t wait for anybody to take initiative. If you want to network, then create your own ways and take the initiatives. Another thing, I would like to emphasize here is that email is not a substitute for phone call and phone call is not a substitute of face to face meeting. Also, to make the communication effective and meets easy to organize, I created email groups of the participants and the possible participants. These sort of group services are easily available like yahoogroups.com and googlegroups.com. But, the problem was that I found that these groups were equally linked to the inboxes of all types of people. Some busy some free, some interested some not interested. And all the mails posted in them were not very relevant, which irritated quite a few members. This is an evil; I am not able to understand how to cope up with technically. At the same time, the groups I created with the view of networking, soon started having mails, where alumni started helping members to get jobs, to get more business. This was a real eye opener for me.


Then the latest tool, which is a boon to any networker are social and professional networking sites like orkut, facebook and linkedin. I like
www.linkedin.com best for this purpose. It has helped me to connect with the people, about whom I used to read in the Economic Times or see on CNBC TV 18. It has totally punctured any boundaries imposed on professional networking. On the flip side, I had once the tendency to increase my network blindly i.e. my no. of connections should increase. But, later on I realized the difference between Active Network and Passive Network. If I am not interacting with the person I am connection of, then how it is better than repository of electronic visiting card? So, again the idea is to interact with the people you find synergy with. It can lot of topics for students regarding their studies, for professionals regarding their careers, for academicians regarding the research they are doing, for businessmen regarding their business. Infact, if you don’t have any purpose, than it will be very tough to network. In that case, at max you will be able to get back in touch with your old associates or friends. But, what about meeting new people. I don’t think it can be done without a purpose. So, have a purpose, and don’t be afraid of meeting and interacting with new people, that is the essence of networking.


Another aspect, I will like to emphasize here is that networking can’t be done by being selfish. If you seek to take help only, it will sooner or later diminish your networking capacity. Be willing to help others also, and that too in selfless way. This is the true essence of networking. Take interest in the people’s work, and try to think how you can add value to him or help him out via your network. Sooner, or later this will give you returns far more than you have expected.



Now, the purpose of writing this mail is not to boast about myself or my networking skills. I am also on learning path. But, to help my friends, ex colleagues and alma mater to take advantage of the skill, which is not taught in colleges i.e. Networking. Second purpose, of this mail is to start a dialogue regarding the importance of Professional Networking and the ways to do it. So, friends do reply to this mail to start the dialogue.

Regards
Just Another Explorer
Prabal Aggarwal

PS: I got lot of queries, via forwarded mails that can one forward or use this article. The very idea, of this article is to share experience, so that the mistakes I did in my professional life, others shouldn’t do it. Even if one professional or student is benefited by this, my purpose is more than served. So, friends if you like it spread it. That’s the whole idea of sharing.

Friends, as an author of this article, I authorize anybody, can use this article for publishing on any media i.e. print, visual, audio, internet, forwarding emails, intranets, etc.Only request is that, the name of the author, body of the article shouldn’t be changed or altered. Secondly, would request to mention that this article was originally written & posted by Prabal Aggarwal, on Jan 18 2010 on www.managementinformatika.blogspot.com. You, can start discussing with me and other readers, by commenting on the blog post. Also, if anybody using this content, feel like that monetary contribution should be made, you can donate on my behalf that sum of money to Project Why (http://www.projectwhy.org/), not for profit organization.

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5 comments:

Pips said...

Hi Prabal,

Read your article and I agree with most of it. There are few things which worked well for you but they might not work well for others. I would like to share another tip which I got from someone during MBA and it is working well for me.

Maintain a list of your contacts, along with their phone numbers, email ids and basic information about them and their family or common associations. Use this list to periodically call them or email them and make your emails personal. If you send an email asking about "how his kid is growing" or "did he meet the common friend lately", it makes the conversation more personal and stronger.

It seems to be working for me, but as I said before it might or might not work for others. I maintain my list on google docs so its available with me all the time!

Having said this, its good to have you in my network. Wish you all the best for future endeavours.

cheers
anil

Prabal Aggarwal said...

Thanks a lot Pips(Anil) for your valuable comment. I totally agree with you, that there are various ways of networking, and each one has to choose his own way. Your way is nice.

Keep interacting.
Regards
Prabal

marion said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.
Lucy
http://dataentryjob-s.com

Kamal Goel said...

Hi Prabal,

Nice article.. definitely agree to the importance of networking both Social & professional. And LinkedIn is infact a gr8 tool to achieve it.
I myself actively use to do networking since college, keeping record of email addresses, contact numbers & important occasions (now also adding their current location & company)

So when i want to know who from my contact working in that company or who all in that city etc., I can know instantly.

occasionally buzzing them is important .. ya but again as you said not that frequently.

So keep networking
all the best

cheers !
kamal

Prabal Aggarwal said...

Thanks a lot Kamal.

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