NOTE: While this post is applicable to all professionals, I am writing this specially for the young folks starting their first job — straight out of campus
As a campus mind, these are probable the best days of your life. You have just landed your first job, through campus, and you would naturally be on cloud nine (everything needs to be cloud enabled these days you see 🙂), You would be looking forward to the start of your career and the many firsts that would accompany it – the first salary check (the most important thing, and I am sure you would have already thought on how to spend it also 🙂), your first office space/desk with a phone, your first visiting card, your first project, your first PM and so on….. This is a great moment in your life and you should enjoy each & every moment of it.
Social networking is one area that you folks are experts at. For you all it is like second nature; having grown with online social networks around you. So, I will write about the various ‘real networks’ that you would be having & the need for diversity in your various networks.
Your Work Place Circle: This will consist of people in your circle at the workplace. Chances are that you would be joining MindTree with your batch-mates/friends from college and you would naturally move around in a group with them – have lunch with them, stay with them at a PG/rented house, go out with them, etc. These are people with whom you have spent 4+ years of your life in college and naturally the trust, the bonding, the relationship you have with them will run very deep. The fact that they are also part of the same organization as you are is like icing on the cake as it allows you to carry on the friendship at work also.
Your Social Circle: Chances are that many of your friends from college/batch-mates would have joined some other equally good IT company in your city and that would form your larger social circle in the near future. You would be either staying with them or meeting them on weekends late evenings. You would talk about your work with them, exchange notes on which company is good, which is paying what salary, how the food at the canteen sucks and what is happening at work etc etc. This social circle will be your source of stories on what is happening at which company and you will form perceptions about various organizations without having any first hand info about them.
Your Mentor/Professional Circle: Chances are that you (through your social/work circle) would be connected to your seniors from college – people who were 1-2 year senior to you — and that will form the majority of your mentor/professional circle. Here you will hear stories of how some senior of yours is getting XXX lakhs, or going to onsite, or got promoted to a PM role in just XXX years, or an XYZ domain/area being the future of things would be doing the rounds. Over time, you WILL make your career decisions based on the inputs from this mentor/professional circle.
Now, if you analyze the above circles, you will realize that almost all consist of people who have similar experience as your, are from same background, do the same things as you – basically think the same as you. So, where is the diversity in your network? I am pretty sure that almost everybody in such a network thinks the same, which basically means that there is very little diverse thinking at all and it is just like a ‘herd of sheep’s going somewhere’ — one blindly following the other.
So, why do we need diversity in our networks?
Just think of it, Facebook (or your next favorite social network) is meant to connect you with people who you already know. Not with people who you would like to know. Nothing wrong with it as this familiarity provides comfort & provides a support system. BUT, familiarity or uni-dimensionality of your network doesn’t necessarily work well for getting fresh & new points of view. New & fresh insights can also be found outside your immediate & familiar networks. So, how do you ensure you don’t miss out on those insights? How do you ensure that your network is challenging your thoughts/ideas/assumptions and not just reinforcing them — if all you do is talk to the same people all the time?
Now, not for a moment I am suggesting that we don’t have our facebook friends, our social/professional circles. As humans we are hardwired to like familiarity. We like confirmation that whatever it is that we’re doing is right. However, you should also hang out (at least for a little bit) with people who are not like you. You should break that pattern of familiarity before it becomes an echo chamber of just similar & one-dimensional thoughts. This diversity will be like oxygen to your thinking and help you immensely over time.
So, how do you bring diversity in your networks?
Work Circle: Don’t limit your friend circle at workplace to the people you already know. Try to make new friends from your campus batch – people who are NOT from your college or the place that you come from. You need to expand your workplace circle to include new people into it so that your work circle is diverse and not just one-dimensional – of people you already know. You could team up with these new people and start your pet side-projects. Join the various clubs in your organization and play an active role in them. I am sure every organization would have several clubs that you can join and expand your social circle
Social/Professional Circle: To expand your social circle & mentor/professional circle, try attending the various technology/geeky events that happen in almost every city these days. BarCamps are a perfect place to meet new, young, dynamic, enthusiastic people of diverse backgrounds and experience. It is the perfect place for you to build your “real network” (and not just your online network) and know people who you would not have met otherwise. BarCamps are a melting pot of ideas, energy, enthusiasm & a fun place to be. (I have read about people who have met at barcamps for the first time, became friends and later got married too :-)) Over time, you can reach out to this network of yours for professional advice & bounce of ideas. Apart from barcamps, you can also get involved with other geeky events that happen at IIM-B, startup circles, TiE, technology events/tracks etc . If you are socially inclined, and based out of Bangalore, then you can get involved with Janagraaha — they need good technical folks like you for various volunteering activities.
Another way to expand your social circle & bring diversity in your network is to have a passion outside of your work. Now, don’t worry if you don’t have one already. You can find one if you want to. There are tons of options from guitar classes, to salsa dancing to Shiamak Davar bollywood dance academy to food clubs, from railway travel groups to automobile freaks to weekend trekking to cycling to photography to theatre to Janagrahaa to some other equally exciting thing. You will be amazed at the number of options you have these days to get involved in various things. Amongst these, hopefully, you will find or discover your passion also. In these groups, you will meet people from all age groups, diverse backgrounds, education, professions and such network will help you give different perspectives towards various things which you could miss if your entire network is just from the IT industry & the people you already know.
So, don’t remain a ‘frog in the well’ jump out of it. Get out of your comfort zone and make your network count..!!!