The Ins & Outs of Networking in Hong Kong
As a newbie to Hong Kong, I threw myself into networking enthusiastically. After a few evenings of gathering up business cards from financial planners and real estate agents, I realized that untargeted and purposeless networking was getting me precisely nowhere. I’m hardly alone in this. Mention networking events, and few (in my experience) respond with unbridled glee. As an Executive Coach, I frequently work with leaders who have been told to network more, but find it either a) a total waste of time or b) an anxiety producing exercise with little prospect of positive results.
Given this, what does good networking look like? How can you make it work for you? Here’s a few dos and don’ts for how to get the most out of your schmoozing….
Be selective with your events
There are a myriad of networking events in Hong Kong, from the more formal opportunities offered through the Chambers of Commerce, through to any number of LinkedIn groups, professional associations and informal gatherings. If you choose, you can spend every night of the week at a different event, which even the most extroverted might find an unachievable chore. After scoping a range of events, be selective in attending more regularly and frequently those that offer you most value.
Be clear on what you bring
To be useful, you need to know what you bring to any potential connection (naturally, this goes way beyond networking and into any working or indeed personal relationship). Aim to give more than you take from networking events. If you can be genuinely helpful – either in terms of connections, resources, giving your time to sit on a committee, then you will enhance your reputation as someone who can add value, and be useful to know.
Be clear on what you want
Of course, judging value is easier if you have a metric of what “good” looks like. If you know what you need your networking to deliver then you can decide a strategy to suit. There are no rights and wrongs about this. But putting some thought into what you need your networking to do (Deliver new customers? Build your reputation in your field? Keep your profile high?) will help you to identify events and groups that are likely to be of most use to you.
Networking events are an opportunity to make connections by building relationships. Relationships are built through reciprocity, trust, authenticity and reliability. And they take time. If you treat networking events as a process through which you will build your connections, rather than a one off event, your efforts are more likely to bear fruit. Be available, be genuine and be helpful to those that you meet, listen more than you talk and over time you will develop a network of supportive contacts through whom you will be able to work.
Few people really love networking. Tolerated as a necessary activity sure, but actively look forward to it? Many people at events, who may look like they’re networking naturals, are there under protest. They’ve learned how to be good enough at networking to make it work for them. Introverts often have a particularly difficult time within large social gatherings, convince themselves that they can’t connect and then cut themselves off from all the positives that good networking can bring. Remember that, developing networking skills is an on-going process, which requires commitment and practice. If you are uncomfortable working a room (many are) then set yourself a more realistic goal, such as speaking to three unfamiliar people before you leave. Susan Cain has some great ideas on how introverts can develop their networking skills.