I hate everything about it! Going to after work drinks and pretending that work is my life, introducing myself to random people and not knowing what to say next. And worst of all, I hate those people who leave you with a drink in your hand and no one to speak to, the moment they've figured that you're of no immediate help to them.
Is that you too? Then read on! Because in spite, of the fact that I "hate networking", I have one of the strongest networks in my professional circle. And you can have it too!
Have you ever said:
Networking is sleazy and opportunistic
I'm great at my job, if only I could avoid the small talk!
Networking is bullshit and doesn't work for me.
Do you see what's going on here? People are interested in "networking" as something that would benefit them immediately. People therefore are looking at short term relationships rather than "playing" the long term game. And most of all, people are playing with an idea of networking - an idea that has never worked, nor will it ever work. You see, people like building relationships, but hate networking. So do we... so why do we think others will be so different and people who are great at networking are "sleazy and opportunistic"?
Years ago when I was doing my Masters, I used to help our Alumni Committee organise the alum meets. I've always been a sworn introvert who hates small talk. But because I helped organise these meets, many people from the alumni community had "heard my name" through the tons of emails I sent from time to time. So I ended up meeting a ton of my alumni at these meets. One of these people was T who had recently finished his PhD and taken up a junior corporate job. We got to chatting about his work and family. And then we kept in touch.
His job was vastly different to the career I had chosen for myself. He was in a different city most of the years since we know each other. T was about 8-10 years elder to me, so not typically someone you'd call a friend. So why did I keep in touch with T?
Because he was a genuinely nice guy and I enjoyed our conversation. And when I was leaving India, I met T for a coffee. He said, "Sudeshna, too many bright young women give up on their careers because of self-doubt. Don't add to the statistic."
T spoke to my fears and subconscious, he made me want to "not add to the statistic". Since then, there have been numerous occasions when I've doubted myself - the impostor syndrome they call it. There were days I felt like my career wasn't worth it, but every time T's words kept me going.
I hadn't thanked him for this for years, till I eventually did a year back, and he was thrilled. He said that it made him want to encourage women more to join senior leadership positions. And guess what? He's no longer that junior corporate professional - he is the chief economist of one of the world's leading indices, who can actually make a difference with his position of power.
Why am I telling you this story?
Because not always can you quantify the value of networking in your career. T is a part of my network - he's also someone who hasn't ever helped me get a job. Yet, both of us have added tremendous value to each other's careers - he taught me to keep believing, and I encouraged him to be a better leader.
Can you quantify the value we added to each other and also to all of the other senior women he encouraged because I expressed gratitude?
Has he added value to my career?
Were either of us sleazy and small talked to add each other to our networks?
I've been lucky to be surrounded by good people, ones that make networking look like networking is my psychic superpower... Something that never required me to be sleazy and inauthentic. But it's never a one way street... if you'd like to know more about how I approach networking, let me know.