At some point when I was discussing something with my boss in Operational Research, I mentioned in passing that I was good at networking. Which brought a momentary look of disbelief on his face, and I could clearly hear him think : “you’re not the networking type!”
To be fair I’m not, if you take the standard definition of networking into account :
Creating a group of acquaintances and associates and keeping it active through regular communication for mutual benefit.
to interact with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts.
The idea being that you’re outgoing and extravert, going to conferences and business events handing out your business cards, chatting to people you don’t know yet but hope to know in the future, and that way building up a network of acquaintances that may come you in good stead in future dealings with other companies. I’m not that type of person, and my boss knew it.
However, when I was referring to networking, what I meant was something slightly different : over the years while in Llanwern and Port Talbot I had gradually spread my net wide, and had helped a variety of people out with databases and web sites which brought them the information they so dearly needed in their job. In essence, what it means is that a large number of people became aware of me as a useful person to have around, and I cultivated these relationships to the point that people knew they could rely on me to help them out even when I had officially moved on to a different area.
It made it so much easier then to call in a small favour here and there, and it definitely opened doors when I had to introduce my successor into the job. The thinking presumably being that if I trusted the guy sufficiently, then they would provisionally extend that trust to him as well.
One special case I have especially cultivated is my relationship with Process Control. In fact, when they created a new software group within the Journey framework, I was the only non-Process Control member. This had substantial benefits when Group Information Services (GIS) took over some functions from Process Control, and some people moved from Process Control to GIS. Despite the bureaucracy that came with the take-over by GIS, it was always easy to be able to sort things out on a personal level and loose the immediacy of direct contact when you’re forced to funnel everything through the IT helpdesk.
I think that my boss in the end started to see the usefulness of this alternative type of networking, because he often made use of my contacts, and in doing so started of with a feeling of goodwill obtained over the years through my earlier dealings with these people.
Admittedly, all these relationships were purely work-related, and not social. Now that I’m retired I’m no longer in contact with any of them. In fact I lost access to my works email on the first day of retirement, and have not been in contact with anyone on the other side since.