“You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want” — Zig Ziglar

Have you noticed how some friends, family, and acquaintances reach out to us only when they need a favour? We engage in uncomfortable small talk, waiting and wondering, “Now what do they want from me.”

On the other hand, we also have well-wishers who are always there for us, no matter what. They periodically keep in touch- messaging, calling, and meeting whenever possible. 

Staying in touch is a simple habit that requires no material investment, yet few of us cultivate this habit. I use the word cultivate because forging relationships is a slow and steady process that is easy to acquire, easy to practice, and extremely rewarding. All it costs, is some time.

The benefits of networking could extend from finding a great friend, an employee, a business partner to finding a soulmate and if you look around you will see examples galore as proof.  When you genuinely care for people without a selfish interest, they can sense it and that has a ripple effect that can one day transform lives.

On a personal level, Networking is a skill that involves taking a genuine interest and empathizing with another person, with no expectation of any reward.

In today’s era however, professional networking has a broader scope and a greater impact. There are even structured courses that teach you how to network professionally.

 “Networking is the process of digging a well before you are thirsty”, of being prepared.   

Through networking, people who either share common interests or belong to the same profession, exchange information and ideas in an informal setting. They widen their circle of acquaintances, make connections and increase their awareness of news and trends in their fields.

Apart from industry-specific associations like that of bankers, engineers, accountants, and so on, there are global organizations like Business Network International (BNI), Rotary International, Lions Club International, etc., that provide business networking opportunities. They organize workshops and events to facilitate meetings where members can exchange referrals, meet potential clients, build brand exposure, etc.

Numerous social networking platforms like LinkedIn, Meetup, Quora, Glassdoor, Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Pinterest, Twitter, Fiverr, help connect people from different backgrounds. Gaining and sharing knowledge could never have been easier. You can be part of communities to enhance your skills or you can create communities to share your expertise, you could even find potential business partners to set up a startup or find accountability partners to practice your hobbies.  You can even make money by promoting and selling your skills on many of these platforms.

In today’s competitive marketplace who you know or what you know is not as important as who knows YOU. Research shows that 70% of all jobs are not published publicly on job sites and as much as 80% of jobs are filled through personal and professional connections. (www.cnbc.com/2019/12/27/how-to-get-a-job-often-comes-down-to-one-elite-personal-asset).

Jobs and opportunities are not got by those with the best resumes or business proposals. They are got by those who are better networked in the company or the industry one is applying for. Companies like Google, Hewlett Packard, Intel, Accenture have ‘Employee Referral Programs’ to incentivize employees to refer qualified candidates who would be the perfect fit for the organization.

Online networking portals are used as much by recruiters looking out for prospective candidates, as by job seekers. With more than 55 million companies listed on the LinkedIn site and 14 million open jobs, it is believed that at least  87% of recruiters regularly use LinkedIn.

The intent of Networking is not to seek favours, but to establish and nurture mutually beneficial relationships. The 15 odd minutes that we keep aside for Networking in our Toastmasters meetings could be the most fulfilling. Bonding with fellow Toastmasters goes hand in hand with information sharing.

In 2014 when I was going through a personal crisis on account of being made redundant, it was my network that helped me rise from the ashes like the proverbial Phoenix. I received generous support from Toastmaster friends, and friends from the Church. I had been an active fundraiser for a Church in Qatar in 2005, and as they say, what goes around comes around. 

Simple ways to start Networking and be great at it.

  • Make a list of people with who you have genuinely enjoyed a great relationship. They could be classmates from school, teachers, former colleagues, bosses, or neighbours. Send out a simple message with a recollection of something about them that made a difference in your life.
  • Wish people on special occasions and anniversaries.
  • Attend events organized by your various alumni and professional groups. 
  • Be an active Toastmaster and give generously of your Toastmaster skills, most importantly that of active listening.

When you help someone without any aspiration of a reward or acknowledgment you automatically become the go-to person when anyone requires help or handholding. Relationships that are cultivated over time will always reward you in more ways than you know, and you will realize the value of your network whenever you look back.  The well that you dug and nourished for years will be ready for you with the sweetest fresh water, when you are thirsty.

“Networking is not about just connecting people. It’s about connecting people with people, people with ideas, and people with opportunities.” — Michele Jennae

TM Alexander Thomas

TM Alexander Thomas is a Senior Corporate Executive, with experience of over 35 years in the fields of Logistics, Security and Insurance. He is a voracious reader and life coach who is passionate about volunteering and spreading financial literacy. TM Alexander is also a winner of the President of India’s Bravery Award, awarded to him for saving the lives of over 50 people in a fire in Delhi.

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