One of the things I love most about Singapore is the ease of networking. Not only where and when to network but how to network once you're in the venue.
I partly think that this is because I am an expat (of 8 years now). Expats tend to meet other expats in the same boat where you instantly have something in common, you are both aliens in a foreign land, learning, adapting, and reaching out with open mind and open arms.
I was stunned and shocked when I first came to Singapore that people who did not know me from Adam and had no reason to help me, said yes when I approached them about having coffee. That's the spirit of networking in Singapore.
So if you are new to Singapore or have been here for a while but struggle to network, here are some tips that I have learnt from personal experience that took me from novice networker to expert networker.
1) Why should you say yes to networking in Singapore?
If you are here on a short-term contract, plan on staying forever, or sit in the middle, you should network. Say yes to any professional networking opportunity that comes your way and go find some yourself. Why?
It will help you find that job, client, partnership, investor, employee, boss, peer. You will meet some of the most interesting and inspiring people that you will ever encounter in your life by networking. All walks of life and all kinds of backgrounds and nationalities. Even people who are members of countries that you may be wary of are completely different people in a foreign land. More open-minded, more interested in other people in a similar situation.
I got my first, second, and third jobs in Singapore all through networking, not through job adverts or headhunters. Networking also helps you learn about the culture and way of working both amongst expats and non-expats. You will learn so much from people who have been in the country for decades or just longer than you or just have a different experience from you.
You will be amazed by the amount of people who have the same story, came for a year and stayed forever, came with a husband/wife and split up to go out with a local, came with one job only to find it wasn't what it was made out to be and found another or became an entrepreneur just because they could.
Saying yes to networking opens up a whole new level of getting to know people and getting to know your new home. The amount of effort you put in is directly linked to how much you get out of it.
Those that do put the effort in are rewarded with multi-level relationships and insights into the people, business ways, and culture of their adopted home. Those that don't are often the first to moan about Singapore being too small or having nothing to do and usually the first on the plane back from where they came. You make your own bed. Like any relationship, the more you put in, the more you get out of it.
2) Where should you network in Singapore?
You can literally network in Singapore morning, noon, and night every workday. I can go to breakfast events, mid-morning events, lunch events, mid-afternoon events, and evening events every day. Your choice how much you do and don't do and how you schedule your time. Some of the best opportunities to network are through some of these organisations:
British Chamber of Commerce, American Chamber of Commerce, etc. - both have business group events (e.g. marketing, finance, professional service, shipping, oil and gas, etc.) and larger events with Ministers of State and public figures. They have events for members only and many for non-members too.
Marketing Magazine/Human Resources Magazine - excellent conferences that allow ample time for networking.
Professional body events - from APSMA to ASA, from Prime Time to EGN. They all put on monthly or quarterly events to attend if you are a member and if you are not.
Start-Up events are ten a penny everywhere you look. Often promoted on social media. From organisations such as Wedge to Startup Grind.
Co-working spaces - As I have always worked in a co-working space since becoming an entrepreneur, I find this a particular great way of meeting people at events. They often have events with interesting speakers to bring you into their space.
Finance events - being an expat I am targeted by finance professionals, but the best ones do put on some great events that genuinely give you great insights into the economy and financial services in your country.
Tech events - from Cisco to LinkedIn, Google to Adobe, the big tech giants in Singapore are often putting on events that both promote their services and give you some insights into where technology is going and allow you to network too.
Agency events - Marketing agencies of all kinds are often putting on events with fascinating speakers to allow you to meet other agency people, clients, and just people interested in networking and hearing the speakers. Often it is held at the venue of the agency so that you get immersed in their world too.
Alumni events - there are many Alumni events in Singapore, from INSEAD to my University of Northumbria for both people who graduated in their home country or in Singapore.
Others include BNI and MeetUp which I find less effective as they have less expats in and more locals, and as all our clients are expats I tend to focus my time on where they are. But if you have more local clientele, then you can fill your boots with events here too.
3) When should you network in Singapore?
Every weekday! The wonderful thing about Singapore is that due to the beautifully hot, tropical weather and logistics it is possible to network every day of the year. There are no times like December or January when it is too cold or too dark to network. It's always networking time in Singapore!
4) What should you say at a networking in Singapore?
When I first came to networking events in Singapore I was nervous about what to say. It was a very different conversation from those that I had been used to in London where I came from. There it was much harder and people had less to say, I probably had less to say too (hard to believe, I know!). In Singapore the questions roll off the tongue easily, especially amongst fellow expats, ice-breaking questions are ten a penny:
How long have you been here, what brought you out, what do you do, where do you live, what travelling do you do, did your wife/husband/girlfriend/boyfriend come with you, are you a trailing spouse, where do you like to eat, where do you like to go, have you tried Gold Class yet, what's your favourite rooftop bar, and if you're really stuck you can always rely on sports questions, especially if you're with a man!
And of course people ask me “so the mohawk…?”.
5) What should you do after a networking encounter?
Follow up. Always follow up. If you said you'd link up on social media, go for it. If you said you'd meet for coffee/lunch/drink, don't just say it but do it. Accentuate your initial meeting with further ones to build relationships and networking opportunities further. Access the person you just met's networking opportunities and you'll open up even more doors for you to open and meet even more interesting and inspirational people.
Best of luck!
The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.
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Chris Reed has 25 years of senior marketing experience on both the client and agency side in the UK and now in Asia Pacific. He is the CEO and founder of Black Marketing.