By Partha Basu
The current situation of lockdowns across the globe where many of us are working from home has taught us that it is possible to be in touch with others and build connections without ever meeting in person. Here comes the power of digital networking.
Many issues can be solved by who you know, not by how much you know. Hence, networking intelligently is important. Even in a lockdown.
It does not matter what stage of your career or life you are in, in today’s world, with the advent of technology, digital networking will accelerate the chances of your success and help you remain afloat in this fast-changing world.
There was a time, when we personally knew everyone in our locality and hence the networking was done all in person. Over time, with technological advancements in modes of travel, we drifted apart. Now in 2020, physical boundaries or distances do not affect us anymore.
Seems like in our large world, everything is accessible to everyone, information is freely available and helping us enrich our interactions. And hence, remaining unconnected is no longer an option.
The days of building relationships through face-to-face interactions are truly gone. Expectations from both sides are now getting redefined for digital interactions. We, therefore, now need to master the art of digital networking.
Meaningful networking can be highly beneficial for personal and professional growth. With technology now in place, we can reach out to many people. The number of people we can be in touch with is exponentially higher than traditional networking.
When I joined the corporate world, my first boss told me – know people beyond your horizon but network intelligently. The more you network, the more you increase your ability to build your net worth – both in terms of knowledge and finances.
Wise advice, I must say. At that time, I never dreamt of a day when a person living in Asia could be recruited for a top job in Europe by a professional search consultant based in Africa. Yet, this is the reality today. That’s is the power of digital networking where the global has become local.
Digital networking is also a great way to learn since in today’s world there is a surfeit of information. When we know how to harvest such knowledge, we benefit. We can now chose many such people who were earlier impossible to reach out to and interact with them through different digital platforms, by visiting their websites, reading their blogs or attending their webinars.
Digital networking breaks other boundaries too. It helps us appreciate different view points, helps breed diversity through interaction with people from different cultures, backgrounds, economic status all of which are important to build a balanced view of any subject.
Networking, however, has both pros and cons. It can take a toll on you, as it requires you to invest time and energy, and both these resources are limited. Addiction to social media and susceptibility to fake news are just some of the downsides.
Thus, we need to keep few points in mind to be effective with our time and energy. And, we definitely must differentiate clearly between social media and digital networking. While the latter is much more generic in nature, digital networking is quite focussed with a purpose in mind.
Let me summarise four simple points which will help the readers:
Decide why you need to network
Asking yourself why you need to network will make your goal clear. While networking can be quite generic in nature, it can also be focussed. For example, if you are looking for a job change, your networking can be very focussed among people who can help you professionally or personally with your goal. However, in case you would like to publish a book and want that to reach many people, your need for networking will be very different. Hence, the very first step is to decide the goal, both short term and long term, which will lead you to the next steps to give you the idea about who you would like to approach and by when. Without a goal, digital networking strategy may be quite meaningless.
Profile your network
In today’s data driven world, the start of digital networking needs to be data driven. Once your goal is clear, you can profile your network and draw up a long list of possibilities. And then start a shortlist to focus on the people who matter and you should be clear why they matter.
For selecting who you want to digitally network with you can explore the information available online on the social networks. This will help you to match with your requirements and interest levels, or else many networking may lead to a waste of time and energy. Profiling should include matching with ones needed as per your goal. Since time is limited and we all are busy with our own life, a profiling exercise helps to eliminate names whom you do not want to network with.
Chose the right medium
There are many platforms these days to help you network easily. While we have simple proven tools like calling or emailing, growing social media urges us to explore other channels or medium. You will know the best what suits you. There is no one rule whether LinkedIn will work best for finding a new job or keeping in touch with an old associate through simple WhatsApp messages will give you an advantage. My only advice is – choose wisely as you can’t be everywhere and spend all your time on networking. You will know your life and your need the best, so choose wisely.
Decide your ways of communication
Digital networking needs the communication and the message to be clear and proper as most of the time you are not networking in person. It can also be a mix of mediums as needed at that point of time. However, one needs to be careful about “how, when and what” to be effective in such networking knowing which tool delivers to what kind of audience is needed. For example, Facebook may not be a right medium to look for a job change, similarly LinkedIn may not be the forum to publish the photo of a beautiful sunset that you captured during your summer holidays to let people know how relaxed you are after a hard month of work. But there are always exceptions to a rule, and hence chose carefully.
We all are hard pressed for time, and at the end of the day we have just 24 hours in a day. Digital networking can eat up many hours unless managed properly. My advice will be to allocate time, add it in your calendar and make it part of your daily routine. This way you will know when to act and how much time to spend. Or else you may get swayed.
Did I miss out something? Please share your thoughts for our learning experience. Look forward to hearing from you.(The author is the Global Head of Finance Operations for a Dutch MNC-based out of Amsterdam. The comments or observations in this article are purely from his personal experience and learning and have no relation to his current or past employer/s or their opinions)