AS discussed in last week's article, Cambodia offers many opportunities for young professionals to network with their peers. Professional networking can advance your own career as well as the interests of your employer.
However, give some thought to how you network. Just as good networking can propel your rise to the top, bad networking can cause lasting damage to your reputation within the business community. Networking is a skill, like any other. It takes time and effort to learn how to network effectively.
Below, we outline some of the do's and don'ts of professional networking at corporate events, such as conferences, dinners and training seminars.
What to do
- Before you arrive, think about what you would like to achieve from the networking event. Are there particular people you want to meet? Is there a particular issue you want to discuss? Have a clear focus for your networking.
- Think about how best to describe your company and your position. Have answers ready for the inevitable questions, "What do you do?" and "What does your company do?" Try to make a good impression but without stretching the truth.
- Bring plenty of business cards with you. In Cambodia, you are generally expected to swap business cards with anyone with whom you are talking. Not only does this give you their contact details for future reference, but a quick glance at their card tells you all you need to know about their name, job title and organisation. This will help you start the conversation in the right direction.
- Try to make your conversation interesting. Have confidence in yourself to talk about general business, industry or social issues - but without being controversial or inappropriate.
- Remember that networking is a two-way street. Look for opportunities to provide a favour, not just to ask for one.
- After the event, follow up quickly on any referrals or offers of help. If you promise to help somebody, do it without their having to remind you. Be sure to thank the person for any help or assistance that he or she provides you.
- After the event, try to keep the relationship "alive" through regular or occasional contact - provided the other person is not too senior. A quick phone call or email can be sufficient. Stay in touch even when you don't need something from them. Don't only make contact when you need a favour, as they might feel exploited.
What not to do
- Don't be too timid. It can take time to feel comfortable at networking events, but don't be paralysed by your shyness. If you feel very intimidated, gain some confidence by seeking out the more junior people in the room.
- Don't be too pushy or impatient in your networking. Don't ask somebody for a favour within the first two minutes of meeting them. It takes time to establish rapport and build trust.
- Don't ask for a favour that the person cannot deliver, such as supplying confidential or valuable information. This will put the person in an uncomfortable position. Similarly, don't make promises you can't keep.
- Don't get upset if somebody says they cannot help you. There might be good reasons why they cannot help you with your request. They might be able to help you with something further down the track, so don't write them off.
- Don't criticise or "bad mouth" other people at networking events. This will reflect poorly on you, rather than the person you are criticising. For all you know, the person you are criticising may be a good friend of the person to whom you are talking.
- Once you have somebody's contact details, don't call them outside business hours - unless you know them very well or it is absolutely urgent. If you do have to call them outside business hours, apologise for disturbing them.
Finally, remember to relax and enjoy yourself. If you are having fun, you will be a better networker.