Networking: Moving Beyond the Usual Suspects

By Janhavi Hunnur, Staff Writer

When the Hungarian writer Frigyes Karinthy proposed the ‘Six Degrees of Separation’ in 1929– the theory that any one on the planet can be connected with another through a chain of intermediaries of not more than 5, little did he know that the theory would be one of the reasons why business students would be compelled to go beyond their usual suspects of family and friends to build a network. When HBS researched a group of 165 lawyers at a North American firm, it was concluded that an individual’s success depended on his/her ability to network within and outside the organisation.  Because of the discomfort that the majority feel with networking, there is frequently mental strife regarding how to approach or proceed with a networked connection.

In order to correct this anti-networking bias, it might be best to diffuse the misconceptions that one might have about networking. There are those who think that networking is aimless, and who think that it’s a waste of time. Research finds that if networking is approached in a strategic manner it might provide mind-blowing results. The finest way to approach the above mentioned dilemma is targeted networking. Doing prior research on the professionals attending an event, finding common interests for conversations, and deducing what one can offer could make networking easy.

Building your network before you need it.

The idea that networking is best suited for extroverts and not for the shy or introverted is a false conception. If one harbors a growth mindset and considers that networking is a skill that can be learned, motivation to improve at it would be stronger.

Another misconception that people develop is that relationships should come about naturally. Being averse to developing a wide network with variety would result in a homogenous group. Our natural inclination would be to build on relations very similar to us, leaving us without a way out of the box. Stretching out of our comfort zone would open new avenues, encourage us to build more interests, and make us more interesting.

An assumption that limits the strength of building a network is presuming that other professionals wouldn’t know any better than we do or wouldn’t have had more exposure than us. Undermining what the network can leverage in terms of experience or growth prospects  is losing the war even before the battle has been won. This mind set limits people from reaching out and being there for one anther.

A few other ways to boost the impact of a network:

  • Be the black sheep – Setting oneself apart would make one a natural magnet of influential people. It would be the most natural way attract genuine attention. The conversation would be engaging and make one the star of the show.
  • Awaken the maestro – Being an expert in something tends to be a great conversation starter. Sometimes, there is nothing more eliciting than genuine expertise. It would be a channel to build strong relations in non traditional ways.
  • Attract the network – It’s a long and tedious process to build a high profile network when one is not yet powerful. The easiest way to connect then would be to host such an event. Beginning by inviting the most interesting professionals you know to asking them to invite such professionals they know would be an automatic multiplier for a happening event.

The world is fighting for the attention of high profile powerful people and the best way to approach them would be to attract them and ensure they are hooked.

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