The word ‘networking’ has a long streak of bad connotations around it. Some who attended these events often say that it’s a waste of time. But what about smart networking? Have we considered understanding the framework of networking and using this to your career advantage?

Treading on career progression can be shrouded with different obstacles. One cannot simply say that people became successful because of luck. Luck doesn’t drive people’s careers. It’s your 110% constant effort and preparation that does.

An important factor that people overlook after graduating from college is turning relationships into a network. This isn’t exclusive to entrepreneurs or executives only, but also to young professionals, talents or – more generally  – any mortals like us.

Debunking ‘networking’

Okay, so there are people out there who aren’t a big fan of the idea. Here’s a chance to prove that maybe an event you attended before wasn’t really ‘networking’ after all.

To reap the real benefits from true smart networking, you have to understand that it’s more than just being connected on LinkedIn or certain groups on Facebook. It’s also about cultivating robust and loyal relationships among your peers and new colleagues.

To get a better grasp of things, let’s clarify some of the misconstrued and confusing aspects of networking: 

1. The “Lack of Knowledge” Problem. One of the most common dilemmas in networking is not having enough grasp of what it is about. Probably it has to do with a lack of experience in networking or something else. Either way, this can lead to questions such as whether this gives a real value with the time spent or not.

Having a good network can mean a lot to your career. Maybe not now but when you need something – a new skill or a new job, you will thank your network for it.

To be constantly ‘present’ in your network would entail active outreach. It takes a lot of effort but the results can be worthwhile.

2. The “Networking is a Sham” Mindset. People find networking as manipulative and insincere in establishing relationships so they don’t engage further. 

This misconception would highly depend on whose lens you’re viewing it from. And sometimes, it boils down to confidence overpowering self-doubt.

Be real with people. Engage them with relevant conversations. Take time to know who you’re working with. Being genuine is important when networking. Be true to people, and it will be perceived as it is. 

3. The “Introvert v. Extrovert” Argument. There are certain people in this world who are gifted when it comes to networking. Often, people mistake networking as a job only for the extrovert. 

This is not the case at all. Being introverted or extroverted has nothing to do with being good at networking. Rather, it is a skill that anyone can learn and benefit from. One just has to work and improve on it, brick by brick.  

4. The “Inner-Circle” Syndrome. This happens when people think that the people your share common interests with, often referred to as “the  inner-circle”, within the network are who you should be depending on all the time. Wrong.

Smart networking shouldn’t always mean spontaneous relationships in your immediate network. 

It’s great that you’ve found some people who have common interests. But having people think alike within your network doesn’t necessarily help you grow. While they understand a lot about you because you’ve grown to have strong ties with each other, most likely, they have the same perspective and information that you do have.

You are the average of the five people you spend your time with. Which means, they influence you directly by starting to think or behave the same way you do. They can take up a huge percentage with your success or failure in life.

In any group or organization, sometimes, the weakest link is actually the strongest link. In simpler terms, the people you don’t identify with much may give you the opportunity to explore new approaches and avenues. 

People with diverse perspectives will be instrumental to you and your network’s growth by helping you strategize your methods and get new insights. They are an untapped entity within the branches of your network and can be the key to your career growth and  improvement.

Building your network

So now that we’ve debunked the common misconceptions of networking, here are 7 ways to build your smart networking.

1. Start with the mindset of giving something instead of “what’s in it for me?” Your network isn’t about you. It’s about them, or rather both of you.

2. Do your homework on who you’d like to meet within and outside of your network. Have a clear reason as to why you want to attend certain events or joining new networks. 

3. Make sure your elevator pitch is good to go. There’s nothing more noble than being prepared for what to say. Practice a few lines of what you do and are affiliated with. Focus on your key strengths. 

4. Focus on making good relationships rather than worrying about the number of people you’d end up meeting and what you’d get out of them. Be genuine about it.

5. Satisfy yourself with the people you meet and make the most of each moment. Oftentimes, people are always looking for a specific thing and forget to be in the moment when they’re trying to start a conversation.

6. Networking is about having a relationship so maintain that because smart networking usually exists with time.

7. Leverage both online and offline networking. Be strategic about the people and groups that can yield the most benefit and meaningful relationships.

8. Most importantly, be yourself. There’s nothing more genuine than by being yourself. It will help bring meaningful conversations and great impact both to your career and life.

Have you joined a talent network recently?  How were you able to leverage your network in shaping your career?

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