Singaporeans and networking mix like marbles and mental asylums; one’s seldom associated with the other. In five years, I’ve never experienced a satisfactory networking event here. At best, everyone’s babbling about themselves, and the entire hall’s an annoying narcissist convention. At worst, it’s like the local housewives’ gossip club, where everyone’s whispering who’s got the dumbest idea next to Pets.com. In a desperate hope to salvage our networking skills, MoneySmart presents five habits Singaporeans need to shed:
1. Be Blunt Like a Sledgehammer
I still meet people who start with “Hello, got lobang or not?”
Nice. Smooth as sandpaper and sharp as a bowling ball. But this happens with a lot of local yuppies: They’re book smart, focused, and have the social skills of a sullen goat in a petting zoo. Use them as a “what not to do” example; when you’re networking, don’t open the conversation with demands or needs.
Think of the difference between a stranger striking up a conversation, and an insurance salesman cold calling you. You want to come across as the former, not the latter. Your focus should be on establishing rapport and building a relationship. But start a conversation with your needs, and you’re putting the other person on guard. It’s obvious you want something out of them.
2. Use Only Social Media
With the advent of sites like LinkedIn, there’s a strong temptation to let your profile do the work. And when the responses aren’t coming in, this gets backed up by creative stunts on Twitter, Facebook, a personal Blog, etc.
Don’t get me wrong; social media is a powerful tool for networking. But when you lose the skill and ability to socialize face to face, it becomes a crutch. Your online profile doesn’t convey subtle qualities, like tone, passion, or a sense of dedication. There are a million user accounts out there, all peppered with keywords like “passion” and “belief”. But without face to face contact, they’re just repeated words on similar looking pages. To convey sincerity, you need to get out and arrange meetings.
Another thing: Time and again, I’ve asked people about themselves, only to get an answer like “It’s complicated, I’ll give you my collectionofidiots.com profile, you look it up there.” I guarantee you I won’t be looking it up. I’d have forgotten your existence in the time it takes to reach the coffee dispenser.
3. Lie About How You Got to Know Them
For reasons I cannot fathom, this is prevalent in Singapore. When we try to network, the worst question we can face is “How did you hear about me?” or “Who referred you to me?”
Suddenly, we’re like North Korean spies locked in a CIA interrogation room. No one wants to admit that they just cold-called, or that they went on Google and contacted everyone on the list one at a time. Despite there being nothing wrong with that.
It’s better to just be honest and say: “No one referred me, but I’m enthusiastic about this and your contact details were right there.” It won’t diminish your chances. But if you lie and say “Oh, Mrs. Toh referred me,” and they actually check with her, you’re exposed as a liar.
4. No Pre-planned Approach
Before your networking attempt, have a pseudo-script or a plan. You can’t follow it word for word, but you’ll know exactly what you need to talk about. If you keep winging it, you’re going to deliver mixed, inconsistent signals. This is especially true when large numbers of people are involved; everyone’s going to realize that you’ve told each of them a slightly different story.
Conversations are also fast-paced, fluid processes. It’s easy to forget a key point, or to blather something stupid. By having a general plan at the start, you can avoid all that. You need to set down:
- How best to define yourself
- Which questions you want to ask
- How to address problem topics (e.g. I notice you’re a Youtube commenter. Is your IQ well below average? )
- When and how do you want to get back in touch
Pre-planning also stops you from looking hesitant; your responses will be immediate and concise. For more on that, follow us on Facebook; we have the occasional article on handling interviews.
5. Talk About Yourself Only
I used to be guilty of this myself. Often, I didn’t notice I was ignoring the other person. At least, not until they took out the restraining order. But once I q-tipped the wax out of my ears, I started getting better responses.
The problem with talking about yourself is twofold. First, it demonstrates that you are, quite probably, a self-indulgent ass. Second, it means you could be wasting time. You could be discussing your achievements as a web content editor for hours, before realizing the other guys is looking for donkey trainers for his indoor circus.
Networking is a two way process. If you’re trying to get a job, it’s important to know what a prospective employer wants. And if it’s a business proposal, maybe you should pay attention to a prospective investor’s goals.
What are some problems you encounter when networking? Comment and let us know!
Get more Personal Finance tips and tricks on www.MoneySmart.sg
More From MoneySmart