The New Age of Networking
Networking is an essential ingredient in achieving success in one’s career. We have heard the most accomplished business leaders credit the power of their networks in achieving personal and professional growth. The impact of ‘Social Capital’– i.e., the power of social networks in the flow of information, support, and social control cannot be underestimated. At Harvard Business School, socializing is termed an ‘extreme sport’. This emphasizes how crucial one’s network is in achieving long term career success.
Industry networking, in a ‘traditional’ sense offers opportunities to connect with leaders and professionals in your field. It not only offers an opportunity for a two-way communication to share industry insights but also provides a forum to connect on a personal level based on one’s interests and passions.
The surge in the ‘gig-economy’ and the rise of freelancers, entrepreneurs, contractors has caused a disruption to the traditional workforce. The gig economy describes the business model where workers rely on a digital platform to be put in contact with clients to provide their freelance services. The number of gig economy workers globally is increasing significantly each year. This growing section of the workforce often lack the opportunity to draw upon their ‘internal networks’ which makes industry and cross-industry networking even more crucial to support career success.
For some of us, networking at large-scale industry events can be exhausting. For the introverts among us, that comprise at least 25% of the population, there can be nothing more exhausting than making small-talk and engaging in superficial conversations at large scale industry events.
In a post COVID world, networking events of old feel like a distant memory. Unsurprisingly, the Harvard Business Review has reported that the average employee’s network has shrunk over the last 18 months. However, the tangible and intangible benefits of human connections cannot be downplayed.
We hope the following tips will equip you with some tools to stay connected in this new era of networking.
1. Be authentic
While it may seem that the goal of a networking event, be it in-person or virtual, is to ‘work the room’ with an aim to collect as many business-cards as possible, one thing that will set you apart is your authenticity. Experienced networkers will see through the façade of someone frantically trying to network with the sole purpose of obtaining a favor.
Instead, be genuinely interested in the individual, connect over your interests, avoid focusing on titles and get to know the person. You might find that building a relationship with a person you meet at one of these events might ultimately lead to a mutual benefit down the line, even though that was not the goal when you first started.
If you are networking in a virtual setting, try to login a few minutes earlier. This will provide you an opportunity to connect on a 1:1 basis with other participants or teammates.
Ariana Huffington, the living definition of being a ‘super-connector’ recommends that you be fully present. Give the person you are talking to your undivided attention, without looking over their shoulder to evaluate if there is someone else that you should be talking to. Instead of constantly evaluating how this person you have met can help you, focus on getting to know the individual, uncover ‘what makes them tick’. Bill Clinton is arguably one of the best-known networkers that the White House has seen. What set him apart as an influencer, was his focus, his ability to make you feel like you were the only person in the room.
If networking via a virtual forum, don’t hesitate to ask them about a particular piece of art or an interesting virtual background that you have noticed. As J. Willard Marriott said, “it’s the little things that make the big things possible”.
3. Ask Questions and Listen
Networking requires thought, planning and effort. Opening with the all too stale, “So, what do you do?” Is most likely going to evoke a prosaic response. Why not try using one of these open-ended questions which are likely to elicit some interesting responses while giving you an insight into the individual:
- What brought you to the event or what’s your connection to X (the host)?
- Have you picked up any new hobbies during the pandemic?
- What are you reading/listening to right now?
- What is the top destination you hope to travel to when travel restrictions cease?
- What did you miss most about the commute and work from the office when you had to work from home?
- And if you must discuss work, try asking what they most love about their job
When the person speaks, listen intently, and ask thoughtful follow up questions. Too often we get caught up in planning our responses or the next question, that we often fail to grasp details that provide an insight into the person.
If you’re a novice at networking, we recommend that you go prepared with a couple of topics of conversation. These could be either topics that interest you or something that has made the headlines on the newspapers or industry publications which you think could make for an interesting discussion. If you don’t know too much about a topic that might be discussed at the event (or online), don’t hesitate to ask the individual for their opinion or advice.
4. Use of virtual social networks
Online social networks have evolved, and they are now much more than just forums to share photographs. Over 300 million people spend at least one hour a day on Facebook, over 200 million people are active on Twitter, while LinkedIn has over 100 million users.
Several reputable C-suite executives use social networks to communicate real-time messages to a wider audience. Unlike scripted speeches or press releases, these messages are often authentic and empowering, offering greater insights into the individual.
Harness the power of social media and technology to network. Remember though, authenticity and connection are the heart of networking, even in the digital realm.
5. Maintaining relationships
With authentic connections at the heart of networking, not only is it important to make these connections, but it is also just as important to maintain these relationships. Relationships are strengthened through ongoing and frequent interactions.
Consider identifying individuals in your own network – former colleagues, college alumni, former clients that you may have lost contact with and make a bid for connection. Empathy is a key ingredient for connection. Don’t hesitate to offer help, networking is after-all, a two-way street.
How can Metro Workspace serve your networking needs?
Despite the great advancement in technology, nothing beats the power of authentic connections that are forged through in person interactions.
Metro Workspace is an innovative and forward-thinking disruptor in Hong Kong’s real-estate market. Metro Workspace offers flexible, affordable, inspiring workspaces for Hong Kong’s thriving SMEs and entrepreneurs. They have created an eco-system for members to enjoy beautiful, affordable, lifestyle-centric workspaces across the city designed to inspire creativity and connection.
Metro Workspace understand the importance of flexibility and hybrid working while inspiring a sense of community. They host regular networking opportunities for its members and clients with inspiring thought leaders from the industry. Freelancers and SME’s can take advantage of the flexibility that comes with hybrid working while enjoying the perks of ‘internal networks’ that belonging to an organization or a community brings. Metro Workspace is a ‘melting pot’ of members from diverse backgrounds such as corporates, SME’s, freelancers from a wide range of industries. It is safe to say, no two coffee-machine conversations will be the same.
Brene Brown aptly said- “Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen”. So, while the idea of networking might seem overwhelming, at the crux of it is the authenticity of the relationship- the vulnerability, trust and shared experiences. Being part of the Metro Workspace community offers an opportunity to be part of a large and growing network of professionals, providing diversity of thought and the support you need to make your aspirations a reality.
Thank you for reading this blog, you may also be interested in ‘How Landlords Benefits from the Managed Coworking Model’.