The world is increasingly becoming inter-dependent, inter-related and integrated. Thus, as societies get connected, the power of networking that has been unleashed is indeed making the world a ‘global village’.
Notwithstanding the fact that human beings have always been social, it is social networks that are playing a key role in reorienting human life that typify the prevailing social order.
Studies reveal that more an individual gets identified with a particular group the happier he is with life. As the noted English metaphysical poet, John Donne rightly describes, “No man is an island, entire of itself.”
To a great extent, even professional success is shaped by the kind of networks one gets hooked onto. Some highly talented ‘workaholic’ professionals remain introverts and resist the social network temptations.
However, they fail to see the larger picture – connectivity to social networks enriches one’s experience and increases the individual’s resilience to challenges. In the process, his status actually gets elevated.
Herminia Ibarra and Mark Lee Hunter in an article, ‘How Leaders Create and Use Networks’, a study published in Harvard Business Review, state that three distinct but interdependent forms of networking—operational, personal, and strategic—play a vital role in the transition of business managers.
In fact, these principles apply to one’s personal and professional life too. We need to build good working relationships with the people who can help us doing our jobs.
The purpose of this type of networking is to ensure coordination and cooperation among people, who have to know and trust one another in order to accomplish their tasks.
One of the problems with an exclusive reliance on operational networks is that they are usually geared towards meeting objectives as assigned, not towards asking the strategic question, “What should we be doing?”
It’s the quality of relationships, the rapport and mutual trust that gives an operational network its power. Widen your circle of casual acquaintances. Build and expand your contacts by enlisting friends from professional associations, alumni groups, extended family and friends’ contacts.
Such personal networks provide important referrals, information, and, often, offer coaching and mentoring. They help you to see the world with a better and more refined perspective.
Unlike your operational networks, which are largely limited to your place of work or the organisation you serve, personal networks have the potential to grow exponentially due to their viral character.
The engagement with operational networks is constrained by the professional relationship you are holding with your contacts. But, the involvement with personal networks can be at your will and wish.
Identify and develop a set of relationships and information sources that can guide you to much higher levels of personal and professional development. Management science describes such ‘deliberately cultivated’ relationships as strategic networks.
Many are efficient if left to themselves. They may even have an allergy to work with others. This is precisely because they fail to discover the power of the collective. Such people need to re-engineer their mindset to adjust with others within their immediate networks and even outside such frontiers.
This is precisely why people, who have exceptional qualities of outreaching and penetrating, succeed in life more than those, who have relatively much higher levels of academic performance or even professional expertise but nothing beyond. It’s because they marshal the power of networking for their personal development.
Certain individuals have innate qualities to be connected with others. If not, one has to cultivate such qualities willfully and avidly to be successful in the world of modern profession.
As Bourdieu & Wacquant, in an invitation to reflexive sociology stated, ‘Individuals consider the creation of ties as an investment in the accumulation of social resources.’
George Casper Homans, the foremost American exponent in behavioural sociology, explained that people establish ties with those whom they feel can exchange valued resources.
Whether a relationship will be sustained over time will depend on the payoffs to each of the two parties. Thus, social connectivity and the resultant sense of belonging is a determinant of reciprocity in relations. Live and let live theory should permeate your consciousness.
Persons give many tries to get an equal measure in return while persons getting much from others are under pressure to give a similar quantum argued Homans in his school of social behaviour.
Therefore, understand that the one who wants to benefit much from your social networks would also be eager to share your experiences and information so that the network relationship thrives for a longer period.
Unilateral behaviours act as an anathema to the concept of networking. Marwell & Oliver in ‘The critical mass in collective action: A micro-social theory’ elaborated that mutual interests and the possibility of benefits from coordinated action often outweigh individual self-interests.
Actively contribute to the members of your social network either within or outside your organisation. Some people have a long list of friends and acquaintances. But, they hardly interact with them.
They realise the importance of contacts only when they have some work to transact with them. Such an approach may not always yield dividend. The contacts are live only when you keep them live.
Use of contacts makes the relationship vibrant. Trust is the binding energy. Never try to bluff. Honest interaction makes the contact stronger.
Social networking need not be a behavioural attribute suited to some type of people or a congenital character. It’s a skill. Practice it. Be connected to be cheerful, and successful.