Effective Networking: Swipe right for career development.
Updated: Jan 13, 2019
I have never been on Tinder, but I have good friends who have, and talking to them about their experience in the app, it made me realize how complex meeting people has become because not only for dating, as my friends' case, but for any type of relationship. Social media has helped many people connect with each other from different parts of the world, it has helped families stay in touch or even meet relatives they had never imagined they had. But the downside of social media is that it has caused a massive phenomenon of ‘disposable relationships’, never has it been so exhausting and nerve-racking meeting people for the first time, because now, when you are judged, you are judged by the entire world.
Very recently, I taught a lesson on Networking to a group of professionals seeking development in Business English, which made me remember about the blog post I wrote in 2018 for BlogDisal about my experience as an introvert networking at an international conference. While I prepared and delivered the lesson, I couldn’t help but wonder if I was thorough in my text, and I realized I had left out some key points, that is why this week I blog about ‘Networking’.
As mentioned on my previous post on the topic, Networking has never been my forte, but I understand its importance in career development. To tell you the truth, I hate being pushed into meeting new people. I truly believe that connections that happen naturally are more rewarding and long lasting.
Having that in mind, here a few tips on Networking effectively for professionals:
Be culturally-sensitive: When networking in a second language, chances are you are going to interact with people from different countries. That is why it is expected that you behave in a more culturally-sensitive way. For instance, a Brazilian person interacting with a Japanese person during an event - in this case, it is very likely that the way these people approach each other in different manners. In Brazil, men and women are likely to handshake, hug or give a kiss on the cheek (in some states it could be 1, 2 or 3 kisses) when they meet. While in Japan, it is more common to bow when you first meet someone, and it is also considered as a sign of respect. These differences are completely acceptable and we should embrace them, it’s through diversity and knowing a variety of professionals that our careers and personal lives will better develop.
Avoid having a hidden agenda in mind: Many professionals attend events and courses with a very clear goal in mind, which in my opinion is absolutely fine because they are focused. However, meeting someone just in order to ‘extract’ information from them is a very selfish move. I have heard from several professionals, speakers and authors about how much the feel ‘used’ when they realize that is what is happening to them. Also, 'don't kiss ass', you don't need to do that in order to grow in your career, it is quite different treating people with respect and being courteous, and actually pretending to do that because you want something in return.
Don’t collect business cards: Some professionals attend events with the intention of getting as many business cards as they can put their hands on. Even though it is advisable to develop your connections, remember that a pile of business cards are not direct indication of quality connections. Remember that what you need is solid connections that will help you progress.
Cherish your relationships: Many professionals only remember of their connections when they need something. I myself have in mind a list of names of people who only get in touch with me when they need something from me. It is alway nice to receive a message saying: “Hello dear, how have you been? Just checking in to see how you are.” or “Hi dear, how’s the family? How was Christmas? Just dropping by to say ‘hello’.” People, anyone, you, me, everyone, we need to be remembered, not only by what we can offer, but by what you can offer them, and sometimes a 'hello' will do the job. There is a reason they say ‘in sadness and in health’ in a wedding ceremony - just a thought.
To sum up, Networking is an essential part of professional development, we must be open to that (even the introverts like myself), but we must remember that truly developing in your career takes much more than that. Any healthy relationship is a two way street: you must give a little, to get a little, so be open for the relationship, BE in the relationship, in other words, don’t be a leecher.