"If you hate making small talk at industry events, we feel you. But don’t let it cost you that promotion. Guest contributor and seasoned networker DR TANVI GAUTAM shares her tips. "
Your network is your net worth. You might have heard this before, but when it’s time for networking, most of us still get it fundamentally wrong. How often do the following apply to you?
›You go to an industry event with some oﬃce friends and spend the whole evening talking to them instead of meeting new people.
›You avoid going to such events because it just feels like schmoozing.
›You hit the circuit only when you are looking for a new job.
›At industry events, you take people’s business cards but never bother to connect with them later. In fact, you have a drawer full of cards from 2002 which are collecting dust.
›You think Linkedin is for job-hunting, Twitter is for your breakfast photos, and Facebook is enough for social networking.
If you’re guilty of any – or all – of the above, you could be sabotaging your career prospects. In today’s workplace, a person with the best networks spots opportunities earlier and can learn from a wider group of people, thus adding more value to their role and company. By the way, adding value is a prerequisite for that promotion as well as for being seen as a serious player at work.
Here’s what I recommend:
❶START NETWORKING BEFORE YOU NEED ANYTHING
You can’t dig a well only when you are thirsty. In the same way, invest in building connections long before you need them. During this period, network selflessly, without any motives – nobody likes to feel used. Create a plan where you decide who you want to interact with and how you will do it. Find out what the good industry association events are and show up regularly, not just at the annual year-end party. Like gardens, networks have to be tended on a consistent and regular basis.
❷NETWORK IN FRONT OF YOUR LAPTOP
Not having a robust social-media presence can be a disadvantage in an era where people often Google others. This is why I advise women to write or blog on platforms like Linkedin, or to at least post good articles, and comment on and share industry-relevant news and knowledge regularly. While Twitter might seem intimidating, remember that it’s a 24/7 global networking party that lets you connect with influencers in your field in an informal and easy manner.
❸FOCUS ON QUALITY, NOT QUANTITY
Networking events aren’t about how many cards you get, but the connections you make. I consider even one good connection to be worth my time. The mistake most women make is to assume that just because you have exchanged a card, the other person should open doors for you. The rule of thumb is to give, give, give, and then ask. Find out what the person is working on and how you can help – such as by linking them to someone who could enable their work.
❹GET USED TO TALKING TO STRANGERS
Creating a larger network does require you to step out of your comfort zone. Look for people standing alone at an event, or in groups of two or three, who seem open to conversation. Start with simple topics such as the food being served or the speaker for the evening. Remember, they may be as nervous as you, and might be happy you made the first move. Share about yourself and don’t just ask questions lest it makes them feel like they’re at an interview.
Dr Tanvi Gautam is the programme director of diversity & inclusion at Singapore Management University (SMU). She is also the founder of Leadershift Inc. This is the first in a three-part series of career articles she is writing for Her World.
SMU Executive Development is giving away two scholarships, worth $5,000 each, for its Women and Leadership programme. Designed for women executives hoping to reach the top, it will run from Sept 21-23, 2016, at SMU. For more information, visit http://exd.smu.edu.sg/open-enrollment-programmes/women-and-leadership-programme .
To apply for the scholarship, applicants must:
• Be PMEBs (professionals, managers, executives and businesswomen), with at least five years’ working experience.
• Be between 28 and 45 years old.
• Be in a middle- to mid-upper-management position, supervising a team of at least five people.
• Submit a 500-word testimonial from their supervisor in support of their application.
• Submit written responses of under 300 words each, to the following: (i) Describe your work (ii) Describe your biggest work achievements thus far (iii) Discuss the challenges you face in your job/industry in these three areas: leading the self, leading others, and achieving work-life balance (iv) How do you think women can lead more eﬀectively at the workplace? (v) What you hope to get out of joining the leadership programme?
E-mail your application to email@example.com. For more information about the programme, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.