Networking is something most of us learn to do when we enter work life. We often refer to such networks as business networks, whose aim is to bring together like-minded (business-) people often for likeminded business activities. A network can be more or less useful or more or less positive. A positive network provides you support whether it is for your personal career or ideas when you need it in the same way as you would support others in your network. A negative network will not do much for you and most of your contacts would not see you as valuable, rather you are one pushing up their number of contacts.
In a business network, contacts can still form a combination of friends and relatives in addition to business contacts and colleagues. If parts of your network also are your friends it immediately becomes more complicated. Who manages fully to differ between friendship and business or family and business? You are asking for a favour and your friend avoids responding. Or the opposite, offending a friend when refusing recommending him/her for a position or facilitate contact to one of your high-ranking business associates. Don’t tell me it will not affect your friendship. However, trying to coerce someone to do what you want is negative use of your network.
In many organizations, people are sidelined in recruitment processes simply because they do not know the “right” persons. Hiring and promotions sometimes go through friendships even though you might not really be the ideal candidate they were looking for in the first instance, but someone feel they owe you the favour and you get the position. This means that who you know is more important than your qualifications. This is negative networking yet common in many organizational cultures. It can lead to the hiring of the “wrong” persons for the wrong positions, not to mention for the wrong reasons and most of all does it affect transparency in recruitment processes and human resource (HR) management within the organization.
Yet, your network often defines who you are compared to those around you. Many are more busy having as large networks as possible, while putting less emphasis on nurturing and mutually support contacts. A network needs to be nurtured. It is neither a mechanism strictly for your gain, nor is it about putting friends or associates at spot. Knowing the “right” persons is not about using them to gain advantages. By all means, do use your contact – that’s what they are there for – but also be prepared to offer something in return.