Its never too late to start networking

“Networking is critical for professional growth and success”

Haven’t we heard that a million times? And while we understand and accept that, most of us haven’t made time for networking. So the real questions are these — How do we get started? Where do we create such networks? How do we keep our networks active?

I never consciously made time for networking in the early years of my professional career. My professional network was limited to colleagues at work and my B-school batch mates. It was when I wanted to make a career transition, that I realized the need for a strong professional network. I had a niche profile and was looking for senior roles, which made job hunting very difficult. Typical job sites were not effective, and I did not know any recruitment consultants. That is when I wished I had a good network that I could rely on for information, advice and connects.

While there are several ways to create such a network, here are a few things that I found effective.

Attend industry events and conferences — Make it a point to attend at least one industry event or conference every quarter. Such events draw participation from a diverse group of people. While attending such conferences, do make sure to mingle and meet as many people as possible. And post the event, send a follow up email or message to initiate active dialogue with these connects.

Increase your connections on networking platforms — Make an endeavour to increase your connections and followers on networking platforms. When you make acquaintance with people at events, send them an invite to connect on networking platforms. This ensures that you have a channel to stay in touch with them. Respond to their posts/updates on networking platforms to stay connected. Follow industry leaders and thought leaders to stay updated on their perspectives and make it a point to respond to their posts. Join networking communities or groups and contribute to discussions within such groups.

Maintain regular connects with those within your ‘inner-circle’ — Amongst all the connects we have, there are those close friends/colleagues who form our inner circle. Ensure that you meet these people on a regular basis. Share your professional updates with them and follow their career paths. Lean on them or leverage their networks when you need information/advice and offer the same support to them.

Establish your ‘brand image’ and social media presence — In the current connected world, our online presence has a huge influence on how we are perceived. Don’t hesitate to share your professional accomplishments, career updates or opinions on networking platforms. This creates an opportunity for others to respond to your updates and hence opens doors for a dialogue or interaction. Such interactions cement the network further.

And finally, make time to interact with people in your network. Whether it is over a phone call or a message or a meeting in person, all interactions help forge stronger connects. Offer help and advice whenever someone requires it and you can in turn rely on them when you need support.

You never know who can help you get your next big break.