Networking Matters – Of course but only when you do it right.

Your Net worth is directly proportional to your Network.

Kingsley Aikins from Networking Matters, who we met during the course of the first semester, stressed on the importance of networking driving home the point that in a real world scenario, your ‘social capital’ could be your catalyst of change.  Is that true? Let’s see.

Everybody in the class aspires to land up with a good job with a great pay and people had started networking actively from the beginning of the second semester although we have the career office, which we are hopeful, will weave the magic wand someday. Our approach to networking is quite straight forward.

‘Spray and Pray’: This happens to be the most common and preferred way of networking. The modus operandi is quite simple. Through your active connections, references or LinkedIn, get in touch with ‘somebody’ who generally would be a professional at a management level in a brand well reckoned and then plan a chat over coffee. You go for the meet with the halo of Smurfit shining right behind and expect ‘your man’ to open a few doors instantly for you. With optimism running high, you kiss good bye and get home to tick one more box in your to-do list and the story ends. What happens there after, I have no idea but is this networking? Not the right way.

Networking is a tool well utilised only when you learn to weave it the right way. Now, having been a recruiter all my life, here’ an approach that I advocate:

  • Be clear about what you want: Chart out a career map and if not an exact one, at least know what you want to do in life. That’s a fair expectation I would have from an MBA grad. Only then you would know who to connect with.
  • Start small, start easy: Your peers are your primary contacts. Based on your canvas, look for people with similar backgrounds in the class and connect with them. Talk about your aspirations and be cognizant about theirs as well. Look at common goals and initiate self-help group to do things like sharing information, jobs, events etc. Expand your reach to the EMBA’s as they could be a better bet given the fact that they are current in the market.
  • Use a ‘warm’ handshake: When you zero in on a company of interest, look for contacts who would know a ‘somebody’ up there. Owing to the sheer might of references and in this globally connected village, I am sure you would find an alumni, friend’s friend/girlfriend or your earlier employer who would know somebody there. Use the contact to initiate a warm handshake rather than cold calling.
  • Do not meet everybody and anybody: The ‘spray and pray’ attitude might actually boomerang as people might start seeing you as desperate and that will dilute your brand. Also, you might end up with making too many connections that might not be of great use to you, not to mention the time and resources lost.
  • LinkedIn: It’s a great tool but is a doubled edged sword. Initiate contacts and try meeting up people locally. Be careful as your profile is public and as you keep adding contacts, the rest in your network would know who you are connecting with.  Example, do not add the ‘recruiter’, recruitment manager’ and ‘head of resourcing’ of, say ‘ABC’ in a short span of time. The first guy to accept; say the ‘recruiter’ will also know that you have added his boss and his boss’s boss to your network. You do not intend to give him ideas, right? For connecting with people who are out station, use ‘InMail’ which will cost you but will also leave the impression that you are serious.
  • Consultants: Do a market research to see who are the specialized search firms or consultants who hire in the space that you want to get into. Once you have a list ready, start connecting and try meeting them. Top notch search firms say an ‘Egon Zender’, ‘Hendrick Struggles’ ‘Spencer Stuart’ might not be open to see you as they work on active mandates and will be hesitant to meet a ‘student’. By the end of May 2013, you should have built a network of consultant who should be able to relate to you and will be open to pitch your profile for any suitable opening which might come up there after.
  • WIFM factor: When you meet somebody, the person who is sparing time to meet you might be a well-wisher and can be of help but also remember, there is nothing called free lunch. The guy on the other side of the table will always be interested in “What’s in for me”. So to evince interest, send the message beforehand that the meeting could be a ‘mutually beneficial’ one.  You will see better responses.

I go back to the example that Kingsley had given about the guy he worked for, Tony O’Reilly (I hope I got the name correct) who used his rugby connection to build a business spread across those countries that he played in. Networking is an art just that you need to know who to tango with. That million dollar job that you aspire for will not get advertised but will get finalized at a golf course or at a black tie dinner table. In the words of Ashutosh Sinha, my senior colleague in Deloitte, Be ‘IN’ it to ‘WIN’ it.

Sundeep Patnaik

– Sundeep Patnaik, FT MBA 2012-13