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Back in college, we were told that networking is the key to success in the corporate world. Taking a cue from our seniors, we used to mob visiting alumni and recruiters who came for campus placements. While exchanging business cards (those were the pre-internet days), we used to listen starry eyed at the perceived pearls of wisdom from those who had “made it” big in the real world. Looking back a quarter of a century after graduation, I wonder whether we like everyone else, were simply “drinking the Kool Aid of aspiration, now that I realize how many actually responded to our calls and requests for meets among those who we thought were part of our network.
Granted that success in the the “real world” is as much about individual abilities as it is about “whom we know”. However, what percentage of those who graduate at the same time actually go on to lead successful careers and fulfilling lives? Moreover, sustaining success requires much more than talent, ability, and contacts, as the perseverance and continuous hard work needed to do well has to be complemented by soft skills such as Emotional Intelligence and communication abilities. In addition, risk taking and going for broke are as much needed in certain fields such as Entrepreneurship and hence, aspiring to succeed is just one part of the whole matrix.
These thoughts have been spurred by what I see on LinkedIn on a daily basis. My feed is full of “feel good” messages that go viral and “influencers” who boast of tens of thousands of followers. Moreover, with easy availability of communication channels in social media platforms like Facebook and professional networking sites such as LinkedIn, it is easy to “connect” with virtually anyone and everyone (literally and figuratively). So, while one may have instant “on the tap” access to all, does it really work in the way it is promised or intended to do? On the other hand, technology can indeed be leveraged as an effective tool to bring change in society and perhaps, it is worth the effort to “keep in touch”.
For instance, during the peak of the brutal second wave of Covid in India, I saw how social media came to the rescue of many, when the state was either absent or overstretched in attending to the victims of Covid. However, I also saw how many of my peers failed to get help when needed, despite “knowing” those worth knowing. This brings me to the second point about whether professional success is guaranteed by networking furiously on LinkedIn or other platforms. While I have found the occasional “gig” through LinkedIn, there are many for whom this is a dead end in terms of profiting from the opportunities that this platform provides.
Now, I turn to the “booming” creator economy. I have been freelancing for over a decade now and consider myself as a full fledged content writer. I have got all my leads and conversions into work on the internet and hence, whatever I have made is solely due to the awesome power of tech based contracting gigs. However, of late I have noticed that many creator platforms such as Medium have become very choosy (for that matter, Medium does not admit writers from India into its Partner Program, though the blame lies in the onerous governmental regulations concerning accepting international payments through providers such as Stripe) and restrictive as far as the scope of earnings there are concerned.
I am fortunate to have some longstanding clients and would like to know whether newbies and others who flock to platforms such as LinkedIn have had success in their efforts to land work. Coming to a very important point, I have also noticed that the “rates” for freelance work seem to be going down quite considerably and it is also inversely proportional to the number of gigs on display. In other words, while there are many more jobs being advertised, the rates offered seem to be sliding down. Is this not a clear case of being “taken for a ride” of those who aspire to make it big here?
Agreed that the broader economy has a taken a hit due to the pandemic and hence, with the anticipated recovery, things would start looking up. Perhaps then, those with the skills and the network would find themselves in demand again. Moreover, monetization of networks is something that some seem to excel at, despite adverse economic conditions. However, my larger point is how many of the many who make it are still struggling in spite of “giving it all”? While I do not intend to sound like a “loser”, there needs to be a “reality check” on our ambitions and aspirations, which is what the “real world” teaches us as well. So, techno optimists and tech enthusiasts need to temper their expectations of what platforms such as LinkedIn can offer and make a sobering and practical as well as practicable assessment of themselves and fancy their chances accordingly.
Last, let this not detract from the fact that ambition and aspiration are drivers of success. However, all I say is that instead of “chasing the numbers”, focus on meaningful networking and concentrate on converting leads instead of scrolling continuously throughout the day, and perhaps night as well. Build a loyal network instead of a large network and aim to bag clients who would be willing to give you a second chance, as after all the brutal world of gig work does not usually give us the chance to succeed after repeated failures. Moreover, remember that most clients have hundreds and even thousands of resumes at the click of a button and as things are going the way they are, you can be replaced in seconds. So, we are a tiny speck in the Ocean of aspirational members and hopefully, not drinking the kool aid here.
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