Believe it or not, networking is just as important to your career as skills and experience. Just think about how you got your job – did you get it the old-fashioned way through application or did one of your friends help you land an interview?
If one of your “contacts” helped you get your job – you’ve already experienced the power of networking.
Peter Sin, a Senior Wealth Management Adviser with Zurich Life Insurance (and one expert power networker himself) will share his insights on the 3 power networking rules that are guaranteed to enhance your career prospects:
1. Networking Is Not About Overselling Yourself
Networking isn’t just about saying “hello” to random strangers and showing the room with your business cards – it’s about building relationships (and even friendships) with people who can help enhance your career through wisdom or *ahem* job connections.
“Too many people go into networking events with the mentality that they should ‘sell’ themselves by exchanging as many business cards as possible”, says Peter. “Networking should be about building long-term relationships with people, not about seeing everyone you meet as a possible business prospect that needs the product or service you’re selling”.
So what should you do instead of giving everyone your 30-second elevator speech that sounds like a bad infomercial? Simple, stop trying to oversell yourself and start trying to have a real conversation – be more proactive in asking people questions so they are comfortable enough to open up to you.
And if you’re looking for a job, don’t blatantly ask for job offers – just talk a little bit about your skills, experience and what you can offer. The person you’re talking to might not need your skills yet, but he might down the road. Also, if you can volunteer your skills and expertise for free e.g. social media marketing, you will not build a stronger relationship, but also get referrals too.
In this day and age, taking opportunities to connect with people overseas can be extremely useful as well, but sometimes due to the constraint of not being in a foreign place for an extended period of time, the temptation to go overboard with selling yourself can be even higher. Getting exposure overseas, whether you are studying or working, is certainly important in this increasingly globalized age, but making the best of your time there to forge new relationships doesn’t have to resemble a desperate speed dating session.
2. Listen to connect
We love talking about ourselves – it’s a scientific fact. When it comes to networking, it’s just all too easy to walk around a room full of other networkers just to tell them how great you are – it’s also pretty selfish and will end up ruining any chance you have of making a good “first impression”.
However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t talk about yourself. It just means that you should make an attempt at two-way communication.
Granted, sometimes the problem isn’t that you don’t want to listen – it’s that you can’t really understand what the other person is saying because he/she works in an industry that’s completely unrelated to yours.
For example, maybe you might be a banker who’s hoping to meet other financial professionals but the event is filled with IT professionals – unless you have a passion for computer software, it’ll probably be difficult to network effectively.
“If you go to a networking event, go to an event that’s in line with your primary objective, whether it’s switching jobs, finding business partners or just meeting new and interesting people”, says Peter. “Talk, listen and connect not just with other networkers, but try to help networkers connect to other networkers too”.
As Peter mentions, listening isn’t just a one-to-one thing, confined to the conversation you and another person are having, but it also empowers you to connect and help others as well. That sort of network effect is highly underrated but one of the most useful things when it comes to doing business.
3. Never forget to say "thank you"
“Thank You” – two simple words that can make a world of difference when it comes to your career. It’s a common courtesy that shows respect and gratitude. And it’s something you should be doing if you want to be a power networker.
“Networking is an art, but there’s also strategy involved as well when it comes to strengthening your relationships”, says Peter. “After meeting someone, it’s always good to send that person an SMS, email or even a phone call to let him/her know you appreciated meeting them”.
Giving someone you met a follow-up “thank you” opens the doorway to building on that relationship you created when you first spoke and exchanged business cards. By sending your “thank you” and continuing periodic correspondence, you’re building up trust.
People appreciate it when you remember them, and they’re more likely to remember you as well. This will pay off in the future, in ways such as when he’s looking for a product/service you’re selling or he’s looking for a professional with your set of skills in his company.
Want a tip on how to easily remember an acquaintance you met at a networking event? Peter recommends writing down memorable notes about a person on his/her card after meeting them – personal bits of information such as hobbies, pets, etc. makes it easier to recall someone you met (and gives you something to ask about when you compose your “thank you”).
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