Friday, March 27, 2015

What I wish I had known :: Lesson 3 :: Nurture a Network of Those You Add Value To

I became conscious of the terms “Networking” / “Create a Network” / “Leverage your Network” very late in life.  My initial take on networking was negative.  It seemed to be all about getting to know people who could help me at a later date.  To network, I was supposed to do things that I necessarily did not like.  If the targeted-person-for-my-network enjoyed doing something, then I was supposed to do the same to help me “network” with them.  This ranged from the traditional “learn to play golf / send a specific type of Diwali gift”, to the ridiculous “befriend subordinate X, as they are the blue-eyed boy / girl” of the target-person-for-my-network.

This networking was supposed to help me make the right / best career move, or help me handle difficult situations, or help me make a sale, or overcome a roadblock.  I rebelled against this as I did not want to use my friends in this way.  How can I ask my friends to do something for me, just because I ask it of them?  That was not what our friendship was based on – it was based on the fact that we enjoyed doing things together, both serious and silly. I can’t  and don't befriend people for the sole reason that they will be of use to me at a later date.

I have many friends, and of many hues.  They range from “I enjoy talking with” friends, to “I can help you with that” friends, to “I want to be silly with you” friends.  Our relationship is based on fun, respect, experience, and understanding. They are my network. They are my support group.
  • Did I go out to build a network?  No. I just stayed in touch with people I studied with, or worked with, or was related to.  I wished them on occasions. I called them just to say “Hi”.  I asked them if I could help when they were going thru a bad patch. I was just there. Today, I still meet with people I went to school / college or worked with.  I am there for them when and if they need me. They are there for me when I need them.
  • How did I add to this network? Part of this is easy.  I moved schools and colleges and hence met more people.  I moved companies, and in a company, worked in different teams.  I met new customers and partners. So I naturally got to work, learn, and have fun with a lot of people.  Part of adding to my friends circle was deliberate.  I eat lunch with different people at office. I drop an email, with a request for expertise.  I start a conversation at a conference.  If the initial conversation is beneficial to both of us it leads to more conversations and then friendship.
  • Did every interaction add a new person to my network? No. Every interaction with a person cannot result in recognition of visible “value”.  Many times it is so subtle, that it takes time to see and recognize.  I try not to drop these people from my circle.  I just look for other occasions, or groups to meet up with them. Are there people I do not want to include in my circle of friends? Definitely!  I just drop them – make no effort to reach out to them.  But, I commit to being there for them when they want. 
  • How do I keep in touch with my network? I believe that if I want to stay in touch there is always a way. Today technology helps me stay in touch.  There is LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, SMS, etc. There is also the simple phone call.  I travel 2-4 ours a day, to and from work.  I use some of this time to call a friend to say “Hi” (via bluetooth connection to my car stereo). I go out for lunch, or meet for coffee.  I drop an email.
  • Should a network be full of people who are higher-up in the hierarchy than me? Definitely not! Hierarchy has nothing to do with who adds value to you and your interactions.  The best support group I have, is my peer group.  They are my friends.  Then there are the fantastic people in my team.  My team adds value to me.  They have perspectives I don’t, they challenge me, ask tough questions, and force me to think differently.
  • Did I make a special effort to create a network? Yes. If I look at the bigger picture, I would say that some of this came naturally to me.  My friends are my network.  My network consists of people who are my friends. They have been there for me when I needed them as I hope I have been there for them when they needed me.

Can I stay in touch with everyone?   No, of course not.

Can I reach out to anyone when I need to?  Definitely.


More importantly, do I add value to them?  Must be, because the tribe is growing.


  1. well said Sangeeta... i also get negative when people here in my organization say are you well networked? or will you able to leverage your network to get this project closed... i am like ... why the heck should i leverage my network to get the work done... why cant people just take ownership of their jobs and finish the project. Networking is not about getting your work done or to show off your FB friends list crossing 1000 mark or Linkedin crossing 5000 mark... it is an ability to value add ... and i think its okay to have a limited network or be in touch with people you think adds value to your life and not being famous in a circle :)

  2. You are right Runu. Number of people in a network is not important. What is important is whether you add value. Also, when there is a project, I believe that it is stakeholder management that is more important than leveraging your network. Not that leveraging a network is not needed - it is - sometimes. But it is not the be all and end all or the secret to getting a project finished.