We all have that friend who always has the best “lobang”, and who seems to bump into someone he knows every three seconds. These guys are never afraid of losing their jobs or getting retrenched, because they know they can always ask one of their numerous contacts for help. Even during the work day, they’re inundated with lunch invitations.
Unfortunately, we don’t automatically become that guy once we’ve clocked a certain number of years on the job. If you have no idea how to network, you could find yourself becoming that older worker who knows nobody outside the people on his own team at work, and who’ll quickly be forgotten should he get retrenched.
Here are three tips for networking your way to a rich supply of business contacts, no matter what stage you’re at in your career:
1. Don’t stick only with the people in your own team or department
There are always a few people who are very well-liked by the people in their team or department, but whom nobody outside of this circle knows. They are gregarious and constantly cracking jokes when they’re around those they’re familiar with, but once this safety net is removed, they clam up.
No matter how much you love the people you work with, they’re often a small part of a larger organisation. Depending on how big your company is, that could mean there are people you don’t know too well sitting on the other side of the room—or on a different floor in a gigantic building.
Working in the same company is the perfect excuse to get to know someone, so don’t pass up this opportunity.
Take the initiative and interact with folks from different teams or departments. Company-wide events like D&Ds and social mixers are a great way to meet other people in the same organisation. Otherwise, there are always colleagues in your existing circle who know people in other departments and who might occasionally introduce one of them to you. When that happens, take an interest in them and, if you hit it off, invite them to join you for lunch, rather than stonewalling them just because they don’t belong on your team.
2. Get involved in a professional association related to your job
It’s important to get to know people not just in your own company, but in other companies and positions in your industry. You’ll be a lot more informed should you want to switch to a related role or simply decide to change companies.
One hugely overlooked networking option is joining a professional association appropriate to your job. Many people aren’t even sure if there are professional associations relevant to them. If you don’t really want to spend your free time attending seminars, you might still be interested in the social and recreational events associations organise.
For instance, if you work in information security, you might want to consider joining the Singapore Chapter of ISC(2). The organisation organises networking events, seminars and talks, including networking evenings, movie nights and, recently a bowling night.
Those working in hospitality might have the chance to attend events organised by the Singapore Hotel Association. For instance, there was an inter-hotel soccer tournament organised earlier this year, and employees at hotels like RWS, Carlton Hotel and Marina Mandarin got the chance to participate.
3. Get involved in communities outside of work
While it’s great to build a large network within your company or industry, it can also be useful (not to mention fulfilling, because you can get sick talking only to people who work in your industry) to focus on growing the breadth of your network and getting to know people across different industries.
These contacts can also be useful should you think of making a lateral career switch and entering a new industry, or making a dramatic mid-career switch.
For instance, if you’re a lawyer and your entire circle consists only of other lawyers, you’re not going to be able to refer as many clients to your firm as a guy who knows lots of non-lawyers. To many of these people, you’ll be the only lawyer they know, so when they have business to refer, you’ll be the first person they think of.
To get to know people in different lines of work, you need to have a life outside of work. Taking up a hobby is the easiest way to do this—whether you’re an avid volunteer, MMA fighter, yogi or nudist, find like-minded people to practise with and your social and professional network will instantly expand.
Do you have a wide network? Tell us why or why not in the comments!