“Networking is often misunderstood: It is not a pile of business cards, FB friends, LinkedIn contacts or likers.” Eero Leppänen, Rautasilta.
The transformation of work in the early 21st century has presented new challenges for employers, employees, and higher education institutions. The 2011 final report of the “Oivallus” project by the Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK) suggests that students should be encouraged to be creative and engage in entrepreneurship. According to the EK, top expertise at work is generated through groups, teams, and networks. Learning in groups and networks develops innovativeness and cooperation skills.
A relevant network consists of people, companies, and brands that are related to each other. Their relationship is built on common social objects and shared experiences.
In terms of the characteristics of networking in the social media, social media consultant Miikka Salavuo, PhD, stresses the importance of building mutual trust between participants. According to Salavuo, the characteristics of networking guide it in the right direction. However, he agrees with Marita Aho from the EK in that networking cannot guarantee, for instance, the economic success of a company, but does provide a useful tool for building success.
Various networking events encourage participants to form new partnerships. However, a pile of business cards alone does not guarantee success in networking. Miikka Salavuo and Eero Leppänen stress that one must be determined to work on behalf of active interaction.
According to the EK, one must share personal expertise in order to reciprocally receive borrowed and utilized skills from others. Salavuo continues by stating that the greater the diversity of a network, the greater its benefits to the participant and the more certain one can be of the validity of the information shared through the network.
Salavuo and Leppänen also highlight social media networks as cultural entities. In the social media, individuals are active agents. The technical realization platform is the network, a tool that creates a forum for people’s ideas, encounters, and cooperation, i.e. networking.
Networking events provide one forum for finding new, open-minded, and interesting cooperation partners to form networks that open up possibilities for future development.
The VALOA project organized a training event entitled “How to create networks and partnerships” for the staff of higher education institutions. The event was part of the project’s aim to facilitate and support networking and cooperation between higher education institutions and work life.
The focus of the networking events carried out and sponsored by the VALOA project after the training event was on the staff of international degree programs and employers. International degree students serve as a resource that enhances the innovativeness of cooperation and thinking outside the box in Finland – not to mention the possibility that they provide in terms of developing global networking.
The EK encourages entrepreneurs to boldly experiment with multidisciplinarity and internationalism: “Form networks open-mindedly and dare to also recruit from outside the familiar fields of education.”
Rautasilta: Eero Leppänen. Retrieved: 25 April, 2012.
Final report of EK’s OIVALLUS project. Retrieved: 2 May, 2012.
OVET project, “Networks as an expert’s tool” training event 2012
VALOA project, “How to create networks and partnerships” training day report 2010