Whether or know it or not, we have obtained experience with networking one way or another ever since starting school.

Read on so that you will see what I’m talking about.

Circles of friends

It’s very likely that during the years when you went to school, of all your classmates, there were about 5-6 friends that you would have labelled as “best friends” or, at least, your “close friends”, the friends with whom you almost always link up during break times or, in some cases, outside school hours. This is what I mean by circle of friends. 

Personal networks

First of all, let’s establish a definition for the term “network”. It is a circle of friends, but it is also much more than that.

I would say, in addition to friends, a network would also include relatives, be they immediate family or extended family, neighbours, or contacts from a club or a committee. In short, a network is a set of human contacts known to an individual, with whom the individual would interact either every day, or from time to time.

And of course, everything is written down, and networks are no exception. In the case of a network, this would often take the form of an address book, or list of contacts, or something of that nature. This would contain the name, address, telephone number or numbers, and e-mail address.

Nowadays it is rather unlikely that one would have a paper-based contacts list, but such a list on a mobile phone or device, which is capable of not only storing a contact person’s number, but dialling it out when the individual requests it, for example.

Professional networks

In the previous section, I have talked about personal networks. Here, I will touch on another type of network, a professional network, and it’s often important to keep the two types of network separate.

A professional network is a list of contacts with whom one would either regularly, or from time to time interact in the course of one’s work. These could be colleagues or co-workers, acquaintances from professional groups with whom the individual does work in some form or another from time to time, or business associates.

You see, networking has been around long before the advent of social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. And it is often just as important as the skills or experience you have when it comes to job hunting. It is said that only 20% of available jobs are publicly advertised.

How are the other 80% of the available jobs filled, you may ask. This is where networking comes in. Let’s say I’m looking for a job that involves Android app design. I would include this on my skill set in my LinkedIn account. One of my contacts in LinkedIn would see this, and knows of a company that is looking for someone that can write Android apps, or else knows someone who knows of such a company. That contact would then contact me to inform me of that company, and would give me the details of that company, including the name of the contact person to whom I should send my CV if I’m interested in the position that is available.

A cautionary message…

On social media, nothing is private. The vast majority of posts on social media platforms such as Facebook are relatively harmless, but that said, it is often wise to be careful about what you post, regardless of the privacy settings (public, all friends, certain friends etc.). I have heard some stories of people losing jobs, or at least facing disciplinary action because of something they put up on social media, and the company found out about the post or posts, which they didn’t like.

Additionally, I have heard at least one story of someone having posted something on social media. Thinking afterwards that it wasn’t a great idea to put up that post, that individual deleted the post. But not before the post went viral, and before long, it was back up on social media, something that the individual was powerless to stop.