Professional Growth

What is networking, really?

I am still trying to get up to speed on blogging after a gap. Today I managed to push myself to write some R code and test it, and it worked. Am getting there, although need more work to turn it into a blog post. So, here is another on the lines of professional development. It is about that word that many people hear of and know of, but really don’t know exactly what it means. I certainly didn’t.
When I was new to the community, I heard many people say networking is the best way to find work. But I really didn’t know what they meant. I thought you had to know a lot of very influential people, and am not the kind of person to seek out people of power/importance and push my cause with them. After a few years, that definition changed. Now I thought I need to tell people am looking for work and they would in turn respond if they knew of an opportunity that was of interest. This is true, but true only partially. It rarely happened. I started telling people I was looking for work, and almost nobody sent me any contacts or information. I was hurt and disappointed when they didn’t. Many times I started considering if it was worth my time to go to conferences/sql saturdays and so on.  It took me close to 15 years to figure out what networking really is, and to get it work for me (at times, it doesn’t work all the time, nothing really works all the time 🙂

To me it is as below:

1 Networking is really just making friends. Get friendly, learn to relax, introduce yourself to new people. Don’t go with any heavy objective or intent. Say you are so-and-so, pleased to meet you and then see how it goes. The next time you see that person, he/she may recall who you are. And there maybe someone else with them that they may introduce to you. That is how the friends circle/network grows.
2 Talk of things you are comfortable talking about. There are many things people talk of that one cannot participate in because one does not share that common interest or simply one does not like it. To me specific topics like that include religion, politics and at times cultural differences. I stick to things am comfortable with and usually find things to talk of in that area.
3 Make your work known via blog posts, talking at user groups or other events. This is by far the most important key to people recommending you for jobs or even letting you know of open positions. If they don’t know what you are good at they can’t relate you to any position you’d be good at. That is partly why I personally didn’t get anyone to recommend me, and I never realized it. Once I got active with blogging and speaking, things changed rather dramatically.
4 Give things time. Networking and building your network takes a long time. Sometimes we can find instant chemistry/connections in people, and the person you talk to today may be your boss or colleague at the next job. But such miracles are rare. Most of the time, people take time to know you and over time that can mature into an opportunity, or a referral.
5 Get active on social media. Many of the friends I have in the sql community are people I got to know better via twitter. I am personally not hugely active myself, but I do read what they have to say and respond appropriately when I can. I also share what I blog and get comments or feedback on that from time to time. Twitter is by far the easiest media there is to make new friends, particularly in the sql community.  It is not as personal as facebook and not as opaque as linked in – it is somewhere in between and is easy to use.

I hope this helps anyone getting started newly with community and networking. Networking is worth it – not only will you gain a lot of support and friends, you will find job openings and opportunities that never existed, guides/mentors who can help you and friendships that can last a lifetime! Best of luck!!



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