Mingling with people over snacks and drinks should not be underestimated as it is a skill in itself. It is through such connections that one builds a chain of business associates and friends.
SEVERAL years ago, my company was appointed to design and run a reality race which involved all kinds of cultural-based challenges in and around the city. Needless to say it was a near logistics nightmare.
Aside from sourcing for materials from live fish, bamboos to traditional hakka pestle and mortar, we also had to seek the cooperation of the community such as the police and hawkers.
At every planning meeting we scrambled to look for people who could help source for materials and connect us to people who were willing to work with us.
I remembered how grateful and impressed we were when several part-timers (university students) whom we hired came forward with their contacts and their resourcefulness to help acquire some of the materials we needed.
I must say that if it weren’t for this young assistant who helped us find a carpenter who happened to be her family friend in Ipoh, it would have cost the company a lot more money to get the huge props from Kuala Lumpur and then transport them to the location of the event near Ipoh.
Although she working part time, she had a large network of contacts who included hawkers, Chinese clan association members, halal caterers, lorry owners and school teachers.
Networking is one of the most important and useful assets to have for any young executive or for those who are about to enter the job market.
And with Generation Y (Gen Y) being so adept with working the social media, using it to build networks for their profession should just be a breeze. There are really no hard and fast rules on how you network but it certainly means going beyond telling the other person your name or standing around nursing a drink at functions.
Effective networking is about a conscious effort to make sure the people you meet remember your name and know what you do. Regardless of whether the person you meet is a a corporate magnate or otherwise, you have to offer some information about yourself and the business or profession you are in and take an interest in his or hers.
In order to do the latter, you need to have sufficient knowledge in general to carry out a conversation that might be of mutual interest or learn how to take an interest in the other person by asking questions without being intrusive or a pest.
While networking can be a more effective way to build relationships as it takes place on a less formal platform, your informal behaviour can sometimes send the wrong signals.
There are many avenues where you can begin building your network. It does not necessarily have to be at cocktail functions. Some of the popular places where businessmen network are at breakfast meetings, non-profit organisations like Rotary Club and Lions Club, pubs and of course, at the golf course.
But it need not be confined to these alone. In short, networking is about getting to know as many people who will have their name and basic biodata in your PDA (personal digital assistant) or in your head and you, on theirs.
Your relationship with them should be on a level where they will pick up your telephone calls instead of ignoring them.
An employee with a useful network of acquaintances and friends relevant to the profession has an edge over those who do not.
However, one has to be reminded that networking is not about collecting names you can drop to gain personal benefits and privileges in the company.
Those with an extensive network are deemed to have the potential to help the company raise its profile and get new businesses. They are also expected to gather business intelligence and help the Human Resources department “head hunt” for potential employees.
A network is not built overnight, and building a professional network requires a lot of homework. Here are some tips to get you started if you are a young executive.
*Be informed and take the initiative to find out about an event or function before you attend it. Don’t go into a room full of people or industrial big wigs and hide in a corner until it is time to go home. The only way you can gain confidence is to go out and know about the people you are meeting and mingling with. Do your homework, ask around and even use the Internet to find about some of the guests.
*If you are going as a group from the company, avoid “sticking” with your colleagues. There is a tendency for those who are new and young in a company to be only with their peers or colleagues.
What you need to do is to be prepared with a few safe and standard lines ready as you hand out your card. Don’t hand out your card until you have gone a little way into the conversation, otherwise you might seem just like an eager salesman.
An example of a standard line can be: “I am new to the industry and this is the first time I am attending a function like this. Could you introduce me to some of them?” The trick is to ask only after you are fairly acquainted.
*To seal that impression make sure that your handshake is firm, body language is professional, and make sure you make a mental note of one thing you can add to the calling card you received.
Jot that down the moment you get a chance so that you can follow up with an e-mail to say it was nice to have met and to include a short note on who you are, and what you do.
You can be sure the next time you meet again in another function he or she will be inviting you to sit at his or her table.
Paul Kam is a lawyer by training. He has worked with private and public sector leaders and has designed and led several transformation, alignment and strategic change initiatives. With his understanding of market conditions in various industries, he is passionate about shifting and aligning mindsets and behaviours of leaders and employees. He is a member of the Malaysian Institute of Management and is also a certified team profiler and a life and wealth coach. Workable Tips By Paul Kam
Source: The STAR Home Education Sunday February 12, 2012