The Hustle, before it became a respectable word in business vocabulary, simply meant cool dance steps. Now, it is equivalent to navigating stakeholders and the environment to help achieve career success and business growth. ‘Hustling,’ de-romanticised simply equals to good, old fashioned, ‘networking.’
Why does hustling, now officially recognised as a new-age capability, play a sizeable role in business acquisition or career advancement? Why does it feel so necessary to ramp up connecting with people? Michael Jenkins, CEO, Expert Humans, offers, “You could have the best service or product in the world but if people aren’t aware, you're going to end up hiding your light under a bushel.”
Yoosuf Moiz, Managing Director, Asia & Middle East, Duke Corporate Education, clarifies. “Networking is essential for business and career development and creates avenues to understanding and exposure to new opportunities, ideas and thinking.” For Life Design Coach at Alt Lyf, Abhi Patwardhan, the experience was just that. “I had just moved to Singapore in late 1998. The country was going through the turmoil of the Asian crisis. A batchmate suggested I meet a journalist friend. Three months later, he introduced me to my soon-to-be boss. I scored my first job in in a crisis!”
Networking enables visibility. It establishes mindshare before a relationship evolves into a ‘mutually beneficial’ association. With technology determining the way we work and live, geographical boundaries aren’t a handicap. With zero costs, and entry points not being a barrier, everyone’s welcome to the party! “In my early professional years, I really didn’t network. I was too focused on work; never occurred to me that I should network to get more business. As we grew, the need to network and hence the going to events and conferences started,” says Priyanka Agrawal, Country Head, Isobar Consulting and Co-Founder & Chief Strategy Officer, Fractal Ink.”
The gig economy will account for at least more than half of the workforce by 2030. “Networking in this gig economy requires resourcefulness, flexibility and agility. So, think like an entrepreneur, network, connect. It will get you far in taking charge of your career and being successful in the challenging freelance market. Remember networking equates to opportunity and no one likes missed opportunities,” forewarns Kriti Makhija, Chief Financial & Compliances Officer, Genesis BCW, India.
Head Admissions (MSc), NUS Business School, Singapore, Winston Wee suggests, “Be interesting, be interested, be sincere, and that I may be of value. A peer, whom I meet regularly at industry events, made me a job offer when a position opened up in his team,” he validates the influence that networking yields. Similarly, Dr. Melanie Peacock, Educator and Founder, Double M Training & Consultancy, Canada, reminisces an unforgettable experience where she nails impact as a definitive outcome of networking. “An early career job, which provided me with tremendous experience and really started my career off on the right foot, had over 300 applicants. When reviewing the candidate pool, the recruiters recognized my name. I believe that one of the key reasons I received an interview and got through the initial screening of hundreds of applicants, was because my name was recognized as someone they had previously met.”
Jo Anne Lee, Managing Director, Inixiate, views networking as a gesture of paying-it-forward. “I am fortunate to have a number of ‘champions,’ who guide and advise me, and, in turn, I try to do the same for others. These champions were, at the start, simple connections. I caught up with my ex-boss, when he arrived in Singapore for his new role. He introduced me to his team and my business relationship with the organisation he was working in continues, till date. This has led me to realise that networking is essential in life. Period.”
Anuprita Bhomick, Head of Hardware, Google Store & Google One Customer Experience discloses, “My network has always come through for me. Similarly, I have seen many people get ahead thanks to their networks. It’s important to have well-wishers, mentors and sponsors who create the narrative about you even when you’re not in the room. In the gig economy, it’s even more beneficial to have a solid pool of connections, who will enable you to get more gigs through word-of-mouth publicity and their influence.”
Michael Jenkins asserts another benefit of networking. “If you want to actively look for inputs to any innovations you're working on or aspire to develop, paradoxically it's better to seek input from people that you perhaps don't know very well, your weak ties, rather than to constantly rely on data or inputs from what you might call your strong tie networks.” There is strength in weak ties. “A random conversation with an acquaintance landed me a recommendation and voila, this led to a coaching assignment for a group of women,” says Farah Ismail, Executive Coach & Founder, Interact Consulting, for whom networking has made a “200% difference in my business.”
Is Dr. Love Sarin’s “Less is More” approach counter-productive to networking? “Have a razor-sharp focus, without getting distracted by the sheer number of people around you at an event. And if you continue that approach over multiple events, the value of your network will be much higher than simply exchanging cards.” As Head-IDEAS Program, he guides his mentees and students of IIT Bombay (Desai-Sethi School of Entrepreneurship) with his brand of networking that “Has a compounding effect while still maintaining the quality.”
As a young professional, I used to get anxious about networking. Setting foot into an environment laden by the pressure of expectation is no fun. Looking back, it was limiting, transactional and left me bereft of the opportunity to engage because my only focus was: ‘What am I getting out of ‘being here’?’ Learning Consultant and Co-Founder, BCFAI, Dolon Gupta reveals the charm of an agenda-absent form of networking. “Being here is about being present, the joy of exploring, engaging conversations and fulfilling curiosity. My job as a L&D professional at an MNC happened through networking. I reached out to someone for advice. Those chats led to a full-fledged job! I ended up making a shift from foreign language teaching to the field of communication and intercultural interactions.” An example of how the best opportunities ‘happen,’ when not bound by consequences. Or, tethered to expectations.
Senior Vice-President, International Markets, Harvard Business Publishing, Vinay Hebbar’s plate of networking includes “Friends and trusted relationships built and sustained over years and decades. I don’t network with the goal of building contacts (and I am not very good at it)! I network because I like meeting people and focus on depth. Networking is hugely important. One can’t grow beyond a point by staying in their cocoon. All the more important in this gig economy, where full-time jobs will give way to part time and project-based roles. Having a network allows access to a far richer set of opportunities and talent.”
Closing the loop on trust, Chris Siem, Managing Director, Nettwork, for whom networking “Is part and parcel of building a career,” says, “Jobs are filled and business opportunities are largely created through references. It is natural to be more amenable to work with someone you know, or someone introduced to you by a reliable contact.” Advocating this view, Gayathri Venkatesan, Marketing Science Partner, Facebook says, “After my first job through campus, every other job has been through a referral. The more I work, the more I find my network (often in different teams) and that of past colleagues more important.”
Dolon Gupta’s last words lay bare. “Networking will move from the periphery to the core of business development,” she affirms. Increasingly, networking will only gain in the informal power that it sublimely exercises on business and career.
The views and opinions expressed by the contributors in this article are personal and do not reflect the official policy or position of the organisations or institutions where they are employed.