Today, in the 21st century, we talk more and more about networking than we ever did in the past. There is much said about opportunities for networking, the benefits of networking and training oneself for networking. Many of the successful people I have met have been those who have been able to network and, consequently, benefit themselves and others. The massive improvement in the technology for communications has helped considerably improve networking capabilities.
Therefore, it is so depressing for students of good management to see more ‘netbreaking’ now, rather than networking, despite better communication facilities and more significant interaction between people—as individuals, as communities and as nations.
We have to look on helplessly as tensions increase between nations (which we are well aware of). The tensions within the country—sometimes violent, like that in Afghanistan just now, and not as violent, like between Assam and Mizoram over boundaries; Telegana and Andhra Pradesh over the Krishna river water; and between and within families where a fight goes on at various levels in court!
On seeing these signs, I had written 20 years ago, why it is helpful for young people, even while in college and earlier, to develop the spirit of networking. I had learned that it does not matter WHAT you know many times, but it matters WHOM you know. In the 21st century, this is far more important than in times past. The qualities of leadership, team working and managing relationships will always come in handy in one’s life, much after school.
Look at the case of Vik, who had an outstanding academic record. When he was still doing his articles for his chartered accountant (CA), he was elected the world president for AIESEC (the world organisation for students of economics). He took a one-year break and went to Europe to AISEC headquarters and worked as full-time president. It gave Vik an exposure he could never have imagined: working with students in 50 countries worldwide and managing a large organisation in a foreign country. It honed his skills in networking, team building and managing relationships. After he completed his CA, Vik got admission to Harvard, and after graduation, he never looked back. Today, he is among the highest level executives in the financial world in New York.
The late Ismail Merchant, from Mumbai, who later became a famous film producer and director in Hollywood, was my contemporary at St. Xavier’s College in Mumbai. When he spent so much time with the Sangeet Mandal and had the annual bash, inviting most of the top stars in Bollywood at that time, I thought he was wasting energy and time and not concentrating on his studies! But the Sangeet Mandal gave him an opening to Bollywood which, in turn opened doors for him in Hollywood, and later, to become an essential part of Merchant-Ivory Productions!
There are opportunities for networking in college. After that, there are opportunities for networking by joining the alumni associations of schools and colleges. One can move further into joining professional associations like the management association, or the engineers association, or the consultants association. Or, one can go further into joining social organisations like Rotary, Lions or even the Roundtable.
Times have now changed for the young compared to our day. You have LinkedIn based in America; a similar online networking site, Xing based in Germany; and Viadeo based in France. One can now easily network without compulsorily attending weekly meetings, like in associations mentioned earlier.
LinkedIn operating in 200 countries can most often be more effective for business contacts than a college reunion dinner.
The Economist had long ago said, rightly, that while the old networks tended to be 'clique-ish' (the 'old tie'), the new online networks, by contrast, make companies and societies work better.
They create links that cross national borders. They help people exchange information about each other’s talents and businesses. They encourage the generation of new business ideas.
Finally, if you can combine the advantages of the old world network with the convenience and long reach of the new world network, you are bound for great success in your work and career in these times.
This approach will naturally extend beyond individual relationships to the community, the nation, and all for the common good!
(Walter Vieira is a Fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants of India (FIMC). He was a corporate executive for 14 years and pioneered marketing consulting in India in 1975. As a consultant, he has worked across the globe in four continents. He was the first Asian elected Chairman of ICMCI, the world apex body of 45 countries. He is the author of 16 books; a business columnist; visiting professor on marketing in the US, Europe and Asia. His latest books are “5 Gs of family Business” with Dr Mita Dixit and “Marketing in a Digital/ Data World” with Brian Almeida. He now spends most of the time in NGO work