In this age of living in our own virtual world, how much has networking impacted our lives? A look at the way it has changed people’s academics and careers.

Imagine a world without Facebook and Twitter and Whatsapp. Difficult, isn’t it? Before you shudder at the very thought of it, think how much social media has become important to us. Right from the morning, to our job, to our everyday chores, social media somehow finds its way into our day-to-day life. More than adding friends, posting photos and statuses, networking sites have transcended their purpose and become a platform for many to make use of it to grow and develop themselves. Be it making contacts, improving personal skills, being part of an educational forum, forming a group to discuss like-minded thoughts, or publicising one’s wares and products, social network has come a long way in enhancing one’s academic and career life. Keeping in touch with old acquaintances or making new ones, reaching out to an old professor, or corporate connections, everything and everyone is just a click away.

Into the market

When it comes to keeping in touch with mentors and gaining industrial knowledge, Tilak Shrivastava, Manager, Product Development, XCode Life Sciences, says that he found his mentors through networking. “My job revolves around leading programme portfolio execution and dealing with agencies,” he says. “Social networking helps me acquire latest industry knowledge, keep up with the trends and showcase my own expertise.”

He also gives an example from his own career when networking played a pivotal role in one of his projects. While working on a product launch in anti-aging industry, he needed some prior knowledge in cosmetic industry. “I tried searching for some relevant contacts in my LinkedIn list and found that an old schoolmate was actually working as a Dermatologist in Chennai. I called her up instantly and she gave me quite a good insight into the market scenario.”

Career and counselling

School and college-goers, being the major targets of this networking craze, however, have discovered the positive impact of it too. Sameera Ahmed, a journalism student, says, “Networking really helped me in my academics. Especially in a course which was as tough as mine, the connections that I established with my seniors really helped me get through college without trouble.” Not just during academics, college seniors helped her even during the gruelling placement sessions for jobs. “My college alumni still maintain strong connections which comes in useful when someone is out looking for a job.” Right from finding a good doctor in the locality to scouting for roommates, Sameera feels that networking has played a significant role in putting people in touch with one another.

Of all the sectors that networking has influenced, it’s probably the media industry where it has found a large base and made the most impact. Using social media primarily for work, Videep Vijay Kumar, Manager- Digital Media, SPI Cinemas Pvt Ltd, feels that contact building should ideally start with groups and common acquaintances. Managing the social media for a chain of movie theatres in South India, Videep moonlights as a freelance writer as well and has had PR agencies contact him on Twitter. “It’s great when common interests organically reveal themselves,” he says. “You’re able to build stronger working relationships when there’s common ground.”

Making connections

What better way to keep in touch in the corporate world than having an in-house social networking site? ‘Zoho Pulse’, Zoho’s social networking app, has made networking much easier and more accessible within an organisation. Developed along the lines of ‘Facebook for enterprises’, it works similarly — has ‘likes’, ‘comments’ and ‘status shares’ and intranet applications such as forum, wiki, blogs as well.

Preeti Varma, Senior Marketing Analyst at Zoho, says that it has solved the problem of networking at office. Building her career through social networking, she says, “After a year of freelance consulting for different projects, I decided to get back to my IT career, and it was through a LinkedIn job posting that I landed a job at Zoho.” Her professional life has come a full circle now with networking. “I felt like I’ve traveled a full circle. I would say networking did that magic throughout this phase of trying new and different things.”

I wouldn’t have been at the top of my career if not for networking. My old contacts from college help in pointing me in the right direction in many situations. Every day there is one instance or other where people need some guidance or aid. It’s all about the connection you form and how you form them. There is a bad side to networking as well, so the motive behind the relationship is very important for it to survive.

Rohan Sen, Presenter and music manager at Chennai Live 104.8 FM, and the lead singer for Grey Shack

Networking holds a prime position in one’s development. Without creating a strong circle of contacts, I feel one’s growth and development would only take baby steps towards success. Networking helped me in keeping school and college ties alive. And for one of my exams, help arrived in the form of a social networking site. I got in touch with one of my old acquaintance’s senior and he helped me with all the relevant details pertaining to the exam. He also got me associated to a group where I could keep myself updated about every aspect of that exam. This, I believe would not have been possible if it was not for the networking platform.

Sasna Varghese, creative designer

Make and maintain contacts

- Going out and meeting new people is the best way to build new contacts.

- From a career perspective, a vast majority of job openings are never advertised; they’re filled by word of mouth. That’s why networking is the best way to find a job.

- Join a golf club/ gym/ toastmasters/ NGO, attend seminars/ cultural events/ attend trade shows/ alumni events.

- Find a community of like-minded bloggers on the web. Read their posts and become a proactive commenter.

- While building up your network, always keep in mind as to what you can contribute to make the relationship better. Keep an ideal balance and focus on priorities.

- Your selection of who you network with is vital. The filter must be impenetrable.

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