One common grouse among young professionals in Singapore about networking is that sometimes it becomes too contrived. Too much planning, a whole mind loaded with business agenda and dreaded follow-up.
But is it all that true?
Far too many professionals have equated and even gone as far as relegating networking as a mere necessity of their jobs and not attempt to see how they can benefit and grow not only professionally, but also as individuals. Perhaps that is where everything has gone wrong.
Networking is quite simply, relationship building. The reason why effective and authentic networking is necessary is that people don’t necessarily buy what you do or your company’s product or service offerings… people buy you first.
If you fail to connect to your prospects on a personal level, chances are that it will be difficult for you to take your business agenda to the next level.
Aside from serving as the necessary social glue for business agendas, here are 4 other benefits of networking for young professionals that you may not be aware of.
Builds Your Social Capital
The concept of social capital relates to the value of your social relationships. As pragmatic it may sound, all relationships are founded upon some form of exchanges.
Through networking, what you are effectively doing is to expand your social circle and increase the value that your network can bring forth to you. The key is to be open and be genuinely curious for you never know one day how your life may potentially unfold.
As a highly successful executive, you could have always wanted to volunteer at a human rights organization to achieve that sense of fulfillment but never seem to be able to create inroads to one that you will feel worthwhile investing your time and energy in.
Guess what? The executive you’ve met recently at the mixer could just move you with the stories and encounters from his service at one. That’s where a connection is made and you can leverage on this newly formed relationship!
Of course, relationships need to be reciprocal in nature so before you want to take, ask what you can give and the value you can deliver to people you meet during networking functions.
Creates More Opportunities
Networking events are normally run in a manner that is informal and casual enough for you to mingle without the normal reservation and caution as expected in business meeting bounded by cold wall confines.
In such occasions when people loosen up, people tend to be more candid as to sharing their big projects on hand and potential developments in their companies pipeline. They would also be more forthcoming in sharing their professional and personal challenges provided you listen keenly without interrupting at the wrong junctures.
During such moments, if you are able to initiate a genuine connection and provide a trustable offering and solution, follow-up could just lead you to converting a cold prospect to a warm one or taking on an exciting project that could expand you and work you towards your next promotion. If you are looking for a lateral career move, these are the chances for you to take to showcase your skills and capabilities.
Opportunities really do appear in moments you least expect – the difference is whether you are able to identify them and take action for it.
Opens Up Pools of Information and Knowledge
Small talk during networking events need not be merely about banal and meaningless conversations. Instead, you will be amazed if you allow yourself to take in knowledge and experiences like a “sponge”.
The problem also with most executives is that as they rise up in seniority, they become self-enveloped with what they know instead of remaining open to what they could still know and discover. They quite literally become “victims” of their own undoing.
Networking events are excellent moments for you to be exposed to and be amazed by the plethora of life experiences and choices that the person sitting next to you has experienced and taken.
Besides, there is also immense beauty in how one issue or event can be interpreted, understood and communicated in multiple perspectives by different people. A banker, accountant and engineer would have vastly different opinions about their understanding of the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis.
In some cases, you would even be surprised to find out industry intelligence and even corporate movements ahead of mainstream media.
Adds Diversity to Your Life
Networking is your ticket for the ride out of your usual circles and networks to a whole new world of experiences and personalities. Imagine if your corporate life revolves just around your office and your co-workers the whole year round. To a certain point, life could get pretty stale and trite for its sheer homogeneity.
When you meet new people especially with rougher edges and more intense personalities, you are provoked and challenged. When you meet individuals with peculiar habits and unusual hobbies and interests, your world can take quite a dramatic turn if you remain open to exploring.
Before you know it, you could be exploring and enjoying bio-diversity at its best in a wildlife reserve park with a newfound friend during the weekends.
In Dale Carnegie’s book and bestseller “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, he proposes that you can make more friends in two months by being genuine interested in others than you can in two years trying to get others to be interested in you.
With such a starting point in mind, you know what can be in store for you in your next networking event.
Be genuinely interested, enjoy the process and make networking work for you.
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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Benjamin Loh is the Managing Director & Principal Trainer of Flare Communications Coaching. He is one of the youngest Associate Certified Coach (ACC) in Asia Pacific, accredited by the International Coach Federation (ICF), Reiss Profile® Master, and a Certified Extended DISC® Professional. His work in entrepreneurship and activism has also been covered on over 30 occasions on over 10 media platforms.