(1) FALSE: Your goal must be to know everyone in the room.
Networking is not really about the number of business cards you’ve collected in the evening.
Instead, it’s about the names you can actually remember four hours afterwards.
It’s about the topic that you still dwell on as you take the hot warm shower that evening.
It’s the smile on your face when you think of that someone — be it a man or woman — with whom you’ve shared a special connection with (romantic or not).
Hence, when I organize a project, I cannot help but guffaw when I see people being on their ready-set-go mode.
You know, they’re the people who arrive early with a thick stack of business cards and then run around jumping from one crowd to the other, trying to “finish” distributing their particulars to the entire audience? You may actually even be one yourself?
I laugh because I feel that business cards are useless unless people actually remember the owner of these business cards. How many times have I had someone’s business card shoved into my hand?
They would fire away a few boring questions like, “Hi, I am so and so. I work in blah-blah company as an (add position here). What do you do?” And then as they politely nod their head, they scan the rest of the room and go and find another “victim.”
If you’re lucky, you’d get around 3-5 minutes with this guy, but chances are, he’s here on a hunt for more business cards and there’s little you can do to dissuade a man in serious networking mode.
But for me, my goal is to find a connection with just one person.
IF I do find it in a single night, then that’s aready a successful evening for me though I do know that these connections come once in a blue moon only.
If people cannot even remember you, or if you didn’t even strike an impression, then your efforts are in naught. Why would I help a complete stranger whose only achievement is to shove his business cards to my unwilling hands? How many times has it been when people would come up to me, act familiar and say that they had given me a business card the other day so I should give them a time of day?
Ha, why would I do that if they’re not friends? Why will I place my neck out and help that person if I have absolutely little clue on who he is save for his name, his company and his title. Many a times, a favor called upon from people take a lot of risk and goodwill from the other. This is only possible if that person knows you, and not just your business card.
So personally, quality means more to me. I may not be able to get rid of 2 boxes of business cards, but at least I do know that the people I meet when I do my own networking is worth far more than a gazillion parties.
Because they know me, they are impressed by me, and they will help me when I need them.
(2) FALSE: You have to be well-prepared when you network.
The only preparation I do when I network is to remember my stack of business cards just in case. However, given that my workload is so busy in the office that I often forget my business cards, I’d just have to rely on lil’ ol’ me to make connections.
Look, when you’re out there in the wild cavoting with strangers and trying to make a connection, no cue cards can help (though you can try). At a random given night, the crowd in a party will always be mixed. You wouldn’t really know who would actually show up, if they will be helpful for you, and if you overanalyse it, it will just drive you completely nuts.
Go to that networking event with nothing but your decently dressed self and just be, yourself. No pretentious and introducing yourself as your company (as one guy from Goldman Sachs did — now he was quite unforgettable, albeit giving me a negative impression about the company). But just come as you are. Be open, have a drink (just one please) and have fun.
And find that connection. It’s all you need.
(3) TRUTH: Networking is about knowing people. What type of people? Who cares, really…
Networking is about knowing someone, who knows someone, who knows someone, who knows someone…
In truth, you don’t really need to know a lot of people. You just need to know a few people who know you well enough to help you, and who will be willing to give you a helping hand when necessary.
I know thousands of people given my work and extra-curricular activities, but I can only count on two hands the people I can really call when I need help.
But my gift is knowing where people’s strengths lie.
If I am visiting Taiwan, I know who exactly to call so that I can crash at his/her place. I know who to contact and he’d be able to invite me to whatever party is happening that evening. And I can call on an acquaintance to help introduce me to business contacts.
That is networking, my friend. For every possible need, you know of someone you can call who can help you out.
At the same time, you shouldn’t be picky in choosing the people you know. Seriously speaking, you’d really never know who will help you out in the end!
For example, people ask me how I got myself in Investment Banking. A lot of people have applied and failed (well not anymore since we’re the black sheep of the industry), but the truth is, my ex-boyfriend introduced to me to his friend, who felt I was right for this present position and who referred me to her former boss who turned out to be the head of an equity house back then.
Successful networking at work!
But then again, how the heck did I know how significant this girl would be when I first knew her? He was my ex-boyfriend’s acquaintance after all…!
Life however works in funny ways, so here I am.
So when you network, don’t have your nose up in the air and act like an arrogant prick.
Just go out, be yourself and be remembered. Keep in touch and that’s the secret of networking.
More to come but I’m tired and need to shower. Have a great week ahead!