Dictionary meaning of networking is: “a supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest”. In the world of computers, networking is the practice of linking two or more computing devices together for the purpose of sharing data. Networks are built with a mix of computer hardware and software.
In 1990s the term networking was synonymous with the names of well-known networking MNCs like Nortel, Cisco and 3Com. In fact 3Com came up with one of the first palmtop devices which could send and receive mails.
Today, Facebook and LinkedIn are the names which flash in mind the moment word Networking is spoken.
Networking as a term has gained acceptance and momentum in the last decade. Its connotation has shifted from technical to social context. Newer terms like Alumni Network, Conference for Networking and Networking Dinner are gaining wider acceptance.
Networking is both science as well as art. When used in telecommunication, information technology and computers it is science and when used in social context, as a practice, it is an art.
Young generation takes networking generally as an online activity, unaware of the importance of the social context of networking. The fact remains online helps as a tool for getting connected on a communication channel. What is more important is that it should not turn out to be a wasteful activity. Once connected to right people, one needs to sort, sift, nurture and then develop relationships according to need and taste.
Networking can be used not only for enhancing career prospects for employed and employable but for the young and old alike in the context of connecting and reconnecting with new and old contacts, in social context; friendship, courtship, spouse hunting, spouse tracking and in myriad other ways.
Scope of networking extends beyond the use of social media websites like Facebook and LinkedIn. Social media websites are increasingly being used by the corporates in a variety of ways.
What is Networking and how to work on it or better still make it work for you. Networking is not making 600 + contacts on Facebook and spending a lot of time updating status three times a day or uploading all personal or family photographs (a lot more discretion is required in this, more people have suffered than benefitted). Networking is also not getting connected to 300+ contacts on LinkedIn and often writing individually or publicly that one is looking for a change of job, sometimes damaging good contacts in the process.
People who are successful are busy. They do not have much time to spend on such sites. They open such sites with a purpose and quickly do their business and exit.
LinkedIn and similar sites; if one intends to use, for job prospecting and career enhancement, should use by taking membership of their premium paid sites.
Networking actually means connecting with and remaining connected to various levels of and groups of people. For example, a friend goes for a morning walk in the company of people living in his residential area, most of them happen to be businessmen, including well to do shopkeepers. He has another group of school time friends. Yet another group of friends is of classmates and batch mates of his engineering college days. Then another group of his MBA class fellows, alumni and teachers. Friends, who were in the first batch with him as young bank officers and many others, whom he met in later part of his banking career, he remains in touch with selected few from this group also as his “network”. These are some of the groups, I am aware of. He may have other groups like relatives or that of his wife who is a teacher. I have never seen him missing marriages and other parties. He uses these occasions to establish and reunite with multiple contacts He also meets people in smaller groups. At the age of sixty three, he maintains active personal, social and professional life and continues to nurture it with his network of “networks”.
Networking has come a long way as a topic of interest and is developing as a practice. It should not be surprising to see it as a new emerging academic discipline.
The title of David Arvin’s book syas it all about the efficacy of social and business networking: “It’s not whom you know, but who knows you” that matters!