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Business of hard netWORK

 

Kalyan, now working with a leading multinational company, had few contacts in the industry when he first came to Bangalore. He called up an old acquaintance with whom he had shared suttas in college asking for advice. The friend referred her to the HR department of the company. Within two days he had clinched the job.

This writer got an interview call for her current job because she dropped the name of a friend, the CEO knew.

t's true. More and more people are finding jobs through alumnus associations and old pals group. Job consultants aver that close to 40 per cent of job openings are neither publicised nor marketed, and this holds true even for the shortage-ridden software industry on the constant lookout for talented professionals. An instance of this phenomenon is that all software companies, today, have introduced internal referral schemes to fill vacancies to save themselves the time-exacting tasks of filtering through resumes, short listing candidates, conducting written tests and the mandatory two levels of interviews. Not surprisingly, a significant number of software engineers have landed plum postings and assignments in premiere companies by merely tapping friends acquaintances, relatives and ex-colleagues. The name of the game is aggressive networking; a term defined by the Boston College Career Center, an organisation which advises professionals and people on how to network, as a mode of, "establishing and managing mutually beneficial informal relationships with other people, who can provide information that will help you decide on a career path or that will assist you in finding job openings best suited for your needs."

 

"Today, career management, by necessity, means that software professionals not only possess specialised knowledge but are also armed with the requisite "marketing skills" to chart their career growth within the industry. The formation of strategic alliances with a wide group of people in the same field is an effective and inexpensive marketing tool which can help new age specialty workers to remain professionally mobile and ahead of organisational vagaries".

The idea of networking is not absolutely new, purport writers Bonnie A Nardi, Steve Whittaker, and Henrich Schwarz in a seminal paper," Its not what you know but who you know: Work in the information economy," published by Firstmonday. What is new, the writers argue, is the intensity and absolute necessity of networking for practically anyone. In the new-age economy, charcterised by organisational flux, manifest in the form of mergers, splits acquisitions and downsizing, employees can no longer rely on companies to safeguard long-term interests. Today, career management, by necessity, means that software professionals not only possess specialised knowledge but are also armed with the requisite "marketing skills" to chart their career growth within the industry. The formation of strategic alliances with a wide group of people in the same field is an effective and inexpensive marketing tool which can help new age specialty workers to remain professionally mobile and ahead of organisational vagaries. Aggressive networking can help in creating much-needed extra-organisational support structures and these in turn can help ward the ill-effects of sudden and rapid changes arising from routine restructuring operations.

Paradoxically, software professionals most in need of extra-organisational props, by virtue of inhabiting the virtual rather than the real world, experience the lack of social networks far more acutely. On an average, software professionals work twelve to fourteen hours a day. The long-hours of work breed isolation from the real word and the lack of visibility is hardly conducive to forming and maintaining a wide loop of relationships necessary for active networking. The virtual work environment also makes many software engineers socially introverted, rendering it more difficult to network.

Networking for information or jobs, however, does not mean partying till 3.00 every morning nor should it be misconstrued as sucking up to colleagues and going out of the way to be nice to people one intensely dislikes. It merely means gently plugging in to people and staying connected. Consider this: If you tell an acquaintance about the job scenario in your company or send an interesting article or news item on the intended NTT DOCOMO and AT&T merger, you are networking. S L Srikanth, a software engineer continues to send a Daily rant column all his colleagues were particularly fond of, even after he left the company. For him it's "a small reminder of the professional time they spend together and a way of staying in touch." Other simple ways of overcoming the lack of time and networking are:

  • Professional meetings and associations: A great way to learn about trends, making new connections and finding out about job opportunities.

  • Become a member of a tech chat group. Sites like vault.com have company specific message boards set up to solicit insider comments about various companies. You should remember that since some messages are sent anonymously, they could also be fabricated.

  • Professionally affiliated listservers and net groups can connect network of professions within a career field. Listservers and newsgroups are used by professionals to gather information.

  • Maintain regular contact with your job consultant. Job consultants like Assureconsulting have specialised and inside knowledge of the job market. They can keep you informed about salary trends and at times even buffer you in time from impending corporate policy changes.

  • Join discussion forums on sites like slashdot.org or redherring.com.

  • Be prompt in answering mail from friends. Nobody expects a long letter everyday a short two-to three-line message can help.

  • Answer mail soliciting information or help immediately. Even if you are not in a position to help say so. On frequent intervals ask the person whether the problem was solved. This itself could be the beginning of a new relationship.

Related Links

 

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Networking, although a fundamental business relationship in today's economy, like all other relationships follows certain rules of protocol. Never pester your networking companions to get you a job, nor should you hide the fact that you are looking for a career shift. This may sound strangely contradictory but the idea is to tread a delicate balance. If you are looking for a career shift or an opening ask your networking companion for leads. Frame the question tactfully, "I am looking for a shift. I understand that there are certain openings in your company. Can you offer any advice." You will be surprised at the number of helpful people you'll meet. Do not be disappointed if your networking companions cannot provide immediate leads. Once the word is out, somebody will definitely get back.

For networks to render the crucial psychological support in a climate of dot-gones and unstable corporate environment, it is essential that networks are seen as mutually beneficial relationships which need to be nurtured rather than exploited for information bytes. The key to creating, managing and maintaining successful networks is not to throw away the valuable connection, once you have established it. In short, work hard to network.
 

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