As an Intel Corp. branch manager, I’m often invited to non-business-related events in Nizhny Novgorod and other places. In most of these cases there is no direct business benefit, but I always seriously consider each and every invite. Why? Because every event is a potential networking opportunity. And one should not underestimate the value of networking.
When you first become a ‘manager’, you stopped working by yourself and started working through people and with people (although we started to work harder and longer, I must admit). But there’s an interesting thing I’ve noticed – if the number of people reporting to you grows more or less linear, the number of people you can potentially influence grows exponentially. And if you remember my idea about the value of chance, then you’d agree that the probability of having a “good” chance meeting an important person grows as your informal network grows. What’s interesting is the fact that you never (never!) know when and where you can meet the “right” person for the task you’re working on (or may be working on in the future). As an example I can recall a case when I helped one of our sales guys to solve a problem by connecting him to a person still working for the company I worked at before joining Intel. Another example is your school and college mates – I happened to find a great lawyer among my ex-classmates, he helped me and saved a lot of my money – thanks to the fact I attended our 10th Graduation Anniversary.
Another great thing about networking is career growth. And I’m not actually talking about your own, though that’s great too. I mean the career shifts of the people in your network. That’s why it’s important to maintain your network and keep in touch with people you know as the time goes. So today my call to action includes two things:
a) build your network by all means, as long as you feel comfortable with them (attend events and chat with people, connect online, ask your friends to share some of their contacts, etc.), and
b) maintain you network by “pinging” its members from time to time. Sending them Birthday wishes (or calling them on important occasions) is a simple yet powerful network-maintenance trait.
This is where many social networks may serve you well. Try using them for their direct purpose – building and maintaining your social network. But do it with caution – mind your own privacy and be respectful of other’s right to privacy.