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a baker-holic, choc fanatic, dessert-freak.. yeah and i'm south asian :). A happy member of the Fuqua Class of 2011.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

'Networking'...what is it really?

So I remember when I started my b-school process, a few words I heard a lot were 'networking'. B-school teaches you the art of networking, or so I heard. And thats when I thought, okay, thats great, I go to b-school, do whatever's expected of me, and I'll have acquired the art of networking. Only problem is I never knew what networking really is. Is it having the recruiter remember your name (because it may be that it's hard to pronounce, oh wait, he/she will forget it immediately then!), or is it having the comfort to do the "small talk" with recruiters - and that comes to sports, the National Championship, or the weather? No idea, really.
So I started out, not really knowing what exactly networking is, but knowing that somehow, someway b-school will teach me how to network. And thats when I started noticing what was going on around me.

So my observations of the various "types" of networking:

1. The sycophantic networker:
The scene? A company presentation - think of the big names - the top 4 consulting firms, or the big shots in the social media/ computer industry in today's age. Yep, you got it. And so, what plays out is this: You hear the company presentation, hear why company BigShot is so awesome, what kind of people are they looking for, and thats that. And then, the real stuff starts. You'll have say 5-10 company representatives, and within a second (and I literally mean a second), you'll have those 5-10 mini-hubs or SIP circles as they were called. (I'm assuming SIP means something like situational informational or something. hm?) Anyway, so yes, there we are with those 5-10 mini hubs. And now, here's the funny part. If you're the "outsider", just try observing the expressions of those 10 individuals (read sycophantic networker) gathered around that company hotshot. The expression is one that reads: I need a job, give me one; I don't care why you're here, all I know is that YOU can get me a job. Hence, my admiring expression.

So the problem is, I couldn't see myself playing the sycophantic networker. I thought it seemed ridiculous to try to sneak in a 2 minute "star story" or "why I love your company soo much", when surrounded by 10 other people, each trying to prove they deserve this more than you. Seriously though, from a recruiter's perspective, doesn't it get tiring? Or maybe, its just flattering.

I will say one thing though, any time I saw the circles developed, one and only one thought always came to my mind: "Like moths gathered to a flame".

2. The "I dont-give-a-damn networker":
This is the type of person who thinks they're too cool to meet recruiters, talk to them, and that your star-studded resume will get you the job you want. So, all you have to do, is fill in the application, send in your resume, and bam you're done. Thats how it worked before, right? So why shouldn't it work now?  

Well: (and this comes after working as a I dont-give-a-damn networker for a good 5-6 months, and then realizing why my approach may be wrong):...the point is, things are different now. Think of how many top b-schools there are in the US. Think of how many MBA grads come out every year. Add the ones who may still be looking for jobs from the previous years. Think of the other extremely qualified individuals, who may be non-MBAs and yet even a better fit for the job than you are. Think of the companies who don't even believe in the value of an MBA. 

And that makes you realize precisely this: You are a small fish in a big pond. You cannot change that. Remember it, acknowledge it, and re-strategize according to where you are.  Find your own comfort level in networking, you'll improve, slowly, but definitely. 

3. The "I network-with-reason" networker:
And so that's the final one. Thats the path I decided to take, and am glad I took. I realized (luckily not TOO late), that we all need to network at a certain level. What level and what type of networker you decide to be, is totally up to you, and thats fine. 

When I realized I really did need (and more than that want) a summer internship in the US, I started thinking seriously about what kind of companies interested me. Who could I reach out to? Who might be interested in speaking to ME given my background, experience and prior skills? I started thinking a bit about how to relate what I had to what company x really might need. So when you start thinking along those line, you'll be more comfortable in reaching our, expanding your professional network and learning from other's people's advice on your career. 

That: for me, is what defines networking, really. Being open, finding new avenues, expanding your horizons and actually taking an interest in why person x at company x is at that role - how has their career been shaped? What advice can they give you (given their lessons in their professional life)? Treat them like mentors, and you'll develop a longer "networking relation", rather than a bland "I need a job" relation.

As I started reaching out to my friends, friends' friends and so on, one person made a comment that had an impact on me. 

He said, "Choc Heaven (well obviously replace with my real name), Linked In is your friend. Use it."  That is very true. Right after that, I joined LinkedIn, and tried to see what the fuss is all about. Linked In is an amazing tool & can be your friend too :) Let it be one!

So..enough philosophizing, but here's hoping you're a step closer in understanding what to expect from b-school networking, and what you want to achieve from it!

Ciao!

1 comment:

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