This Article (under title ‘Networking Skills using Effective Communication’ in Chap.15, pp.214-220) has been published in “Effective Business Skills” by CEGR recently. The book has been edited by: Sudarshan Banerjee, Pooran C. Pandey, Aloknath De, Crispian Tan, Lokesh Mehra


Networking is a process of reaching out to others to build relationships that can be used for mutual benefits immediately or subsequently. It can help in building personal or professional connections in a variety of ways ranging from one-to-one to many-to-many communications. Networking results in connections being made with individuals or groups who can share information and insights related to their areas of expertise. The fundamental premise of networking is that we all can achieve up to a point by ourselves; but solutions to bigger problems require multiple expertises. And that is possible to garner through effective networking. Networking implicitly signifies expanding ones knowledge-base and ability through others expertise.

In this dynamic world, managing today’s activities as well as leading for tomorrow’s aspirations is becoming more difficult. Incessant changes inside and outside an organization are quite evident. The era of globalization has created multi-site teams, cross-site leadership and associated matrix management. Products are coming to market faster, solutions are surfacing in varied forms, enterprise partnerships are gaining momentum. These trends necessitate continuous communication among people. Interpersonal networks within and beyond organizational boundaries have thus become essential for professional success.

In this article, we will elucidate ten key ingredients of smart networking in business or otherwise. These ten dimensions reflect a comprehensive body of knowledge that gives leaders the skills they need to build organizational and personal success. For individual leaders, effective networking can lead to richer compensation and benefit, faster promotions, and greater career success. Organizations can achieve better performance, have more effective employees, and bring products to market sooner if they devote time and effort in building effective networking skills. Let us now understand how these ten facets could help in effective networking.

1.     Understand Personal Orientation

Human beings are wired to connect with each other socially. Staying isolated and experiencing loneliness is not so commonplace. Therefore, networking essentially implies building new connections and re-invigorating any established relationships. Since business networking requires one to communicate with different types of people for expanding any business, it is important that (s)he has a likeable personality, confidence and good communication skills. Some people naturally are charismatic; they can effortlessly attract people to get into their business. On the other hand, some has to exert additional effort towards effective networking.

The very first step towards such a networking is to analyze and understand personal orientation–how one is mentally inclined. Networking is not merely for the extrovert. Introverts can be as effective at developing interpersonal networks; they just follow a different path. Introverts may also like to connect to other groups within an organization prior to embarking on the outside world. Many people interact comfortably in a formal set-up whereas some others prefer informal setting where they could narrate stories, have fun bytes and so on. Some expresses fluently in written form, blogs easily in social media whereas some others are quite witty in a conversational dynamics. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to adapt the mode of networking based on personal orientation.

2.     Assess Situational Depth

It is not enough to understand personal orientation; assessing depth of networking situations is crucial. If someone has joined a company or his (her) job role has changed significantly, then (s)he may like to network within the organization first. In fact, some time one has to decide whether joining an outside networking event would be meaningful at all or not. If it is found favourable, one should be ready to interact with ecosystem. Some people lives in cities where many business banquets, dinner meetings happen compared to people living in smaller towns where these would be less. Similarly, interaction opportunity in a special workshop will be limited in number, but good in quality. This can really not be compared to how situations will unfold in an expo or a jamboree.

While assessing situational depth, many relevant questions may spring up: Am I one among the relatively junior people in the networking event? Is the member community a homogeneous group? Would a specific event give an opportunity for one-on-one interaction? Can the interaction be made in a group form? If one is uncertain how much time (s)he may be getting with an established professional, (s)he may like to prepare two formats of conversation: say a short-format for 1 minute and another for 5 minutes. Sometimes, people get a chance to meet others in an informal setting. In such an environment, people are much more receptive and one should be able to get longer to converse with. Not all networking events or organizations are equal; one needs to determine which events will give him (her) the best return on investment of time and effort.

3.     Define Networking Goal

Now that you have understood personal inclination and situational strategy, the very next step in the connect process is to define a clear goal for networking—the specific purpose for making the connection. Effective networkers can leverage the people’s knowledge and expertise to access pertinent information and various resources that they need to identify crux of problems and/or potential solutions for getting things done. The purpose could be to accrue an immediate benefit or could be something that will fructify potentially in future. It could be just knowing a resourceful people now and conceiving meaningful purpose in due course.

Leaders’ skills at creating effective interpersonal networks will have a significant impact on any organization’s success. Studies show that business networking is positively correlated with growth in remuneration, frequency of promotions, perception of career success and satisfaction in work portfolio. Nonetheless study findings indicate that majority of employees and managers are not inclined to developing their network of relationships. In fact, research at the Stanford Shyness Institute suggests that almost 60% of young adults have difficulty in social settings. It is of essence that people realize importance of networking, orient oneself towards this, and define networking objective for expanding knowledge horizon. When the networking goal is set crisp and clear, it is easier to seize a moment of powerful interaction.

4.     Seize Interaction Moment

Networking is nothing more than getting to know people. Whether we realize it or not, we are already networking every day and everywhere we go. Knowingly or unknowingly, we network when we initiate a conversation with the person sitting next to us in train or flight, introduce ourselves to other patients in a hospital while waiting for doctor’s turns, or catch up with a former colleague in a coffee house. When the first three actions are steadfastly in place, it becomes easy to seize the precise moment of precious interaction. It is time to realize systematic engagement! By having a trusted set of advisors and advocates, effective networkers make better decisions faster and are more likely to have necessary support for their ideas. It is reported that successful people spend 70% more time networking than their less successful counterparts. Also, in this process, people with rich social networks become better informed, more creative and good problem-solvers than those with limited social network connections.

Meaningful linkages do not just happen—it requires activities meticulously planned, mode of engagement (one-on-one/group, public/private conversations…) selected, experiences evaluated. Anticipating next moves lead to great connections. It is essential to make ground work before networking event: to study the list of attendees whenever possible, to understand relevant topics covered, to assess possible scope of interactions, to design clarification format with open and closed questions. Rapport building with attendees does not have to be any kind of force-fitting relation. Networking is neither about collecting business cards nor about how many people that you converse with. Networking is truly about pursuing relationships with persons that matter to you.

5.     Articulate Expertise Effectively

Without even a plausible goal, a meeting does not yield to networking. Therefore, identify the specific individual or a set of individuals in group that you wish to connect with in line with your networking objective. Some people are naturally good communicators; they do not need to put a special effort. They simply like people’s association. Majority of others tend to have their circle of friends with whom they are comfortable with. These do not allow increasing acquaintance base to effective communication and networking. Fifth facet of networking is to present one’s expertise to others in an articulate manner so that the other parties can sew the thread of connection.

One can learn to talk about accomplishments and skills without boasting and bragging. It will be worthwhile to make a list of one’s expertise, skills, experiences, training, qualities and attributes as base input for all your interactions. When introducing oneself, the norm is to be clear, specific and distinctive – the way one wants him (her) to be remembered. (S)he should be able to imprint a pleasant memory in others mind. The guiding principle: do not hesitate to meet new people in fear of rejections; step out of your comfort zone; re-introduce yourself if others are struggling to remember you. And then one should communicate comfortably with confidence and exuberance about oneself and business. Instead of a monologue, a dialog conversation is much more effective. Part of good communication skill is being an attentive listener rather than talking continuously. Effective communication includes listening and asking questions that show interest.

6.     Appreciate Associated Personality

While interacting with networked person, it is important to note that networking process is not a transaction process. People mere collecting email addresses, phone numbers, business cards are not good networkers. Such steps often turn off the other party and are seen as mark of insincerity. Self-aggrandizing efforts can easily perturb those whom they most wish to link up with. A sincere interest in others is vital—one should see what (s)he can offer to the other person that they are networking with than what (s)he can get. Socializing with others is fun, but mere laugh and joke will not create effective business networks. One needs to learn how to engage meaningfully making it truly a give-and-take process.

In any networking situation, being in real self should be one’s mantra; suppressing true interests and goals will only hurt one in the long run. Therefore, pursuing what one wants rather than what one thinks others will like is key. The message will be: if you’re reconnecting with an old colleague, first catch up before you make any request or help. On the other hand, for a busy professional you do not know well, be respectful of his (her) time and table out your request. If you are looking for a job, you want advice for your job search and probably you want information or insight. So one should not make others feel ambushed. One needs to ask questions like: Are you looking for reference? Can you give an insider’s take on the industry? Can you provide an introduction to someone in the field? Being specific and sincere on one’s request brings clarity to networking mission and makes engagement purposeful. For meaningful relationship, appreciation of and respect to others is an essential element.

7.     Leverage Near-Far Relationship

By now, it is clear that networking involves making connections, sharing information, and asking questions in an appreciative way. Effective networkers find sweet spots and leverage an opportunity to further his (her) broad mission. As such, not all interactions are meaningful. But adept networkers can easily detect a good one vis-à-vis a not-so-great interaction. Learning from them crystallizes best practices towards maximum effectiveness from their networking efforts. It is of utmost importance that one evaluates networking experiences and degree of engagement relative to his (her) changing goals and decide when to get more involved and when to exit gracefully.

Networking engagements have changed over time; they are not always face-to-face. People at two corners of globe can also network effectively if they have been able to nurture a common goal. Whether it is telecommunication, video conferencing, instant messaging (whatsapp, viber, kakao talk…) or other online settings, distance is not the barrier for networking. Learning netiquettes (net-etiquettes) helps people communicate online through social media and keep his (her) online profiles clean. A good representation of how one wish to be portrayed to others who want to connect is the essence of social media. Proficient and connected individuals widen the world of interconnect to the real world and seamlessly leverage near-far relationship.

8.     Combat Inherent Challenges

While networking skills yield many tangible benefits and communication skills facilitate significantly in networking, there are some inherent challenges in this process. Prime among them is the time that it takes to build strong relationships with others, whether in-person or online. Then, deeper issues come when some do not even imbibe the importance of people linkages. They express like: I have managed without networking till now; I am not confident communicating with strangers; How do I begin to do it?; Other people do not really interest me; I do not have an iota of time for this.

The other set of challenge is that networking process may not always go smoothly. We are not all compatible to each other; our upbringing, value set are quite different. If these differences are stark or fundamental in nature, these could be a show stopper in networking. And if transaction-oriented people are in the network, then they start to have expectation of reciprocity, and at times quite immediately. Difficulties can also arise in juggling the sheer number of contacts that can emerge online or otherwise and managing effectively the pertinent information. British anthropologist Robin Dunbar stated that the maximum number of contacts we can effectively maintain relationships with is 150 approximately. So, choosing the most important ones and nurturing those relationships are more important. And that is not always easy.

9.     Derive Networking Benefit

The first networking-oriented meeting could be a short or a long one, but it can have a lasting effect irrespective of the format. That may just be an introduction; but perseverance to stay connected brings out the true result of networking. These relationships can be local; but many people who network online can connect to people far off. Programs like Jigsaw and MeetUp make these interactions easier than ever before. As more business or social exchanges happen over time, the bonds cement. One learns how to engage meaningfully—remember people’s names, and make sure others remember his (her) name. Follow-up meetings demystify any uncertainty and bring out detailed accounts, paving way for capturing pertinent information and deriving networking benefit.

In the yesteryears, it would have been extremely difficult if not impossible to quickly and inexpensively develop relationships with people across the country or even around the world. Social networking now makes this manifestation possible. It is unlikely that online networking will ever replace the value of in-person connections, but it certainly augments those relationships and builds new ones that were otherwise impossible to have. In fact, if a set of interests is strongly common between two persons, their location distance may not matter. People find ways to share their thoughts, support each other’s missions, and act always win-win in all their endeavours. This way, their collective wisdom starts to serve as beacon of networking and helps deriving associated benefits.

10. Pursue Long-term Engagement

If networking efforts do not generate any positive momentum, one may need to evaluate the quality of network. One should invest time to think about his (her) network’s strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities. Without such an evaluation, there is little chance the network will adapt to future goals. And one may miss opportunities to branch out and forge new ties that will help him (her) move forward. Taking inventory of one’s network and where it is lacking is time worth spent. Cognizance of networking needs will help one to connect with new and more relevant contacts and resources. In today’s fast-moving world, half-life period of knowledge is only a few years and it needs replenishment through studies, on-job experiences or upgrade through networking connects.

All of us have both ‘strong’ and ‘weak’ links. Strong ties occupy the core part of network and weak ties give network freshness and vitality. Also, we need to recognize that building deep relationships take time and it can not happen with all the people one meets. We do not meet someone today and become their trusted advisor tomorrow. When a common chord is struck, relationships grow bigger through mutual sharing around the theme. These people with whom one is engaged for long period share any opportunity details, connect to other strong people and bring their holistic perspective. If a person is powerful, knowledgeable, rich, experienced or saintly or has more than one attributes, networking with them brings good benefits to the relationship-seeker in innumerable ways.


In today’s connected world, it is imperative for people to make their own minimum connections even to stay afloat. Furthermore, strong interpersonal networks within and beyond organizational boundaries add power to professional success. The fundamental tenet of networking is that we all can achieve up to a point by ourselves; but rich solutions to bigger problems require multiple expertise. Networking is a formal process that helps one to expand ones knowledge base and ability through others skills. In this article, we have depicted ten key elements of smart networking in business or society. From understanding personal orientation to setting networking goals, from presenting oneself to listening effectively, from combating challenges in networking to deriving benefits from it is all part of the holistic networking process. The ten dimensions presented in the article are cornerstone knowledge that gives leaders the skills they need to possess for organizational and personal success.

Learning Outcome

Communication skill encompassing verbal, non-verbal, written and visual aspects is one of the most important life skills. Proficient communication skill helps further in engaged networking. A systematic study of the article and absorption of the concepts will guide the reader through steps involved in effective networking. Careful readers will get what are favourable factors that make a networking smart. Through this article, readers also understand inherent challenges and show stopper elements in growing a network. The author encourages readers to apply learnt techniques regularly in networking opportunities to assess what is going well and what needs improvement. A very weak approach to even one step may jeopardize overall success. The author will be delighted if the readers practise, assess and improve networking skills using appropriate communication mode and fulfil their life missions in whatever they decide to do.

Keywords:  Effective Networking, Communications Skills, Personal Orientation, Situational Depth, Interaction Moment, Half-life Period of Knowledge, Near-Far Relationship, Strong and Weak Links, Collective Wisdom, Long-term Engagement.

Acknowledgement: Author has benefited from many formal and informal interactions with his personal and professional network in last thirty years. He heartily acknowledges all the people who have enriched his life. The essence of their interactional spirits as well as materials in open literature is incorporated in the article to help younger people build a strong network.

Assignment Questions:

1.     Among the ten facets of networking, which one is easy to follow? Which one is most difficult step? What comes naturally to you? Please justify with one example in each case.

2.     What is your biggest hindrance in initiating a networking relationship, if any? How do you plan to combat this inherent challenge?

3.     How modern-day Instant Messaging (IM) and social media can help in building professional or personal network?

4.     Explain the concept of Half-life period of Knowledge (hint: search for half-life period of radioactive elements and study how decay happens exponentially).

5.     What ways an experienced, established person can reverse benefit from networking with a college fresher?

6.     British anthropologist Robin Dunbar stated that the maximum number of contacts we can effectively maintain relationships with is 150 approximately. Do you agree? Elaborate your viewpoint.

7.     It is reported that successful people spend 70% more time networking than their less successful counterparts. Do you agree? Elaborate your viewpoint.