Monday, 19 february 2018 | Brenda Rodríguez López
Entrepreneurs who try to boost their business, young professionals who are looking for a job, managers who want to establish contacts abroad, inexperienced professionals who need help, ... There are many people who use their contact network to progress in their career. Coworkers do not just sit by their side in the office, they are also outside the building. Networking is a strategy of professional push increasingly necessary in this changing environment. How to find those "partners" from outside of work and why?
Surely you have heard about the theory of the six degrees proposed by Frigyes Karinthy in 1929, a hypothesis that the Hungarian writer exposed in his story Chains about the connection of all the people in the world through a chain of contacts with no more than five intermediaries and only one acquaintance. Duncan Watts, professor of sociology at the Columbia University, developed and completed this idea in his book Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age. According to this research, thanks to new technologies and just six "jumps", anyone could send a message to another person in the world.
New studies like the one carried out by Facebook have reduced the number of degrees needed in this equation even more, the distance between two strangers is now a little more than three contacts. It is difficult not to establish a relationship between this theory and networking and meditating on about the potential that the network of contacts can have in the future of any professional career. A proof of this is the peculiar project carried out by Michiel Das. This young Belgian marketing specialist lost his job and had the idea to monitor the journey of his business cards. What began as a small experiment was the great momentum leverage that allowed Das to get a dream job in a period of uncertainty and affected by the crisis.
Teamwork, comradeship or respect are key ingredients in the labor relations. A good work environment is a symptom of the good health of a company. As a general rule and with a few exceptions –the workers that are suffering the "burnout" syndrome, demotivated workers or bullies– most professionals try to take care of the relationships that they establish at work. However, many of them covered by the excuse of the lack of time, need or utility, forget about the care and maintenance of their contact network outside.
The labor world is immersed in a process of continuous change driven by the digital transformation, what yesterday was impossible today is common. Not only the environment changes, the professionals themselves are witnessing the metamorphosis of the work concept that is now more flexible and independent but less stable. Those who introduce themselves today as their collaborators, friends or acquaintances, tomorrow can be their clients, employers or suppliers. The relationships we establish outside of work can serve as a push tool in the future.
Linkedin is the platform of digital networking par excellence, it is also a faithful reflection of how we behave many times depending on whether we are in "active search for work" or not. One of the first things that many users leave aside when they find a stable job is the care of their profile on this and other platforms. However, their digital reputation is not erased, it continues, abandoned and empty, representing their image on the Net for the rest of the users. Physically, the same thing happens. It is possible that many professionals cling to the idea that they already have a stable job and a strong position in their market area but, what image do they project outside if nobody sees them?
Beyond the consequences of the lack of care in personal branding, abandoning or neglecting the network of contacts, whether digitally or physically, means a loss of opportunities. Networking is not only useful to find a job, it connects people who can help professionals to grow and place them in the spotlight. These contacts can also constitute an important flow of ideas, provide feedback, help positioning them and give visibility to their brand, support their projects, expand their business or even, to be relevant in their labor future.
Building a network of contacts involves more than adding a contact to a platform or saving a phone number in the agenda, it takes perseverance, dedication and time. The latter is precisely the obstacle that holds many professionals back. However, networking can be practiced in many ways, attending events, fairs and conferences, having a coffee with an interesting contact or through digital platforms like Linkedin or Twitter. A good planning or the establishment of a routine can help to minimize the impact that networking has on the professionals' daily life, but they need to dedicate some time on it to obtain good results.
In VUCA environments, professionals have to face changes constantly and their learnability will be key to overcome these obstacles without fear and to evolve professionally. Relational capital can be a great help when achieving this goal of continuous learning condition. In the networking meetings, professionals have to be willing to do an active listening, take notes if it is necessary and learn from the interaction with other professionals. Talking about a topic that is not well-known or not preparing for these meetings are common mistakes. Our advice for you to start in the networking world is that you are natural, open to participation and always maintain a professional and kind attitude:
At the CEU IAM we believe in networking and, therefore, we organize different events and conferences during the year with experts in subjects like finance, HR, marketing, real estate or compliance, among others. We invite you to visit our events section where you can find spaces to start putting these tips into practice and expand your network of contacts.