Recently I have been interested in tracking problems and solutions to social networking and its impacts. I wrote about some of the social networking lessons sometime back. However, a recent incident sparked the thought again that social networks are a powerful phenomenon for professional life and career moves, and it can be dangerous to ignore.
I casually asked a friend recently about his career progression in a newly-transitioned country and role, and we discussed his unhappiness over current state of affairs. I suggested that I could forward his resume to a friend of mine in a good company I know (he is a smart guy stuck in a career ‘jam’). Recently he told me that it worked out well and he is poised to join this company. This started me thinking: if we didn’t have that casual conversation, he wouldn’t have done this career transition at this time even though he was fully capable. More importantly, if he had been proactive in asking me about suggestions about his career moves, probably this change would have happened way sooner. Still more important, he could have talked about this with the bigger group of friends he has here and this could have been still faster and probably he would have gotten more options. It is a shame he didn’t try to leverage his social network. Knowing him, I know he probably hasn’t bothered to even update his contact info in the networks he belongs to.
I have seen equally useful and powerful use of a network within a company, whether it is about learning about new openings in a remote part of the organization, or knowing about company strategic directions before it becomes a public knowledge in the companyor new initiatives being contemplated in other parts of the company. Networks help in early information availability, thus allowing you to seize the opportunity early, and in many cases, following a recommendation chain to land a high-profile assignment.
Here are some things you can do to make the most out of the concepts of social networks:
Revive dormant contacts: Revisit your address books in your cellphone and various email tools you use. There are likely to be friends and acquaintances you haven’t talked to recently. Of course, you should sound genuine, so pick only those you would like to keep connected. Relationships atrophy with disuse, so keep reviving them.
Be honest and trustworthy: Relationships should be used, but with an honesty and trust. If done so, every transaction leaves the connection in a stronger state. For example, when you refer someone to your connection but recommend without doing due diligence, you are risking your link since your connection may stop trusting you. On the other hand, if you recommend a good hire, your connection appreciates this and will be eager to reciprocate next time.
Give-and-take: A good network connection is all about give and take. You can’t just get benefits out of it, you have to give some too. So be ready to offer help when someone asks for it and it will leave your link stronger.
Networks are very susceptible to ripple effect, both your good deeds and bad deeds travel very fast! This is one more reason you should make connections only when you are sure you are genuine about maintaining them and have something to offer to that connection once in a while. Also, useful networks are not formed by dining someone once in a while, it is formed through genuine give-and-take and honest exchanges, so it is a myth that only extroverts have useful social networks.
If you are interested to know more about social networking tools, this provides good information.