Saara Meke Amakali
There is a common perception that describes networking as a form of leveraging personal relationships to secure resources and influence that someone does not deserve on merit. Therefore, even when people are aware that networking is beneficial to their progress in life, they often do not maximize it because of the traditional negative connotation. Many people, who cannot make a distinction between networking and corruption, or fail to engage in networking, justify their choice as a matter of personal values.
Finding or connecting to people that can help you climb the ladder, sounds suspiciously like corruption. This depends on how society understands the rules and what constitutes a deviation. As a result, the perception of professional networking is not the reflection of an absolute situation, it is a social phenomenon.
In the right context, generating a culture of distinction between networking and corruption is very important. Networking means reaching out to people who can potentially guide you toward your goals. It is about being connected to people who work in a relevant industry or have wide expertise in a specific field and about being remembered by them when the right opportunity arises. People network to broaden their horizons so that they can establish potential opportunities for themselves. Reaching out to the right people makes the invisible visible. This narrates the value of networking.
The ultimate goal is to build a network inside your target fields so that you can have an army of eyes and ears looking and listening for an opportunity that would be a perfect fit for you. This can be achieved by exploring and engaging with a wider social spectrum of connections, for example, through alumni associations. Network mapping by writing down your goals and who you need to know is also crucial. Tools for approaching these contacts can be through social media or emails. Connections between mutuals are also helpful because it creates a multiplier effect.
Professional networking may fuel unfair and unethical practices because some people may use it as a tool to gain an illegitimate advantage over others. However, the solution should not be in shaming people attributing to the fact that they have a bad connection. We should be more careful when we hear these stories and acknowledge the distinct possibility that networking breeds. We should rather measure the ethics of networking by level.
To conceive networking in a more appealing way, we should do it in an honest manner and experience for oneself what it takes in a fair competition. That would be a great service to those who simply think or get inappropriate offers by using networking as a private, ill-suited matter.
Connection is not a guarantee or job offer; it only puts you at the edge of being noticed. It depends upon the way you use it. Make sure you do your best.
Build contacts; grow your network, not handouts!
* Saara Meke Amakali is an Industrial Psychology and Sociology graduate. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org