GGI Business Review is a new business series, capturing snapshots of the GGI Harvard Case Style Masterclass by CEOs and Industry Leaders.
This particular piece is a snapshot from Dr. Ong Kian Ming's GGI Masterclass.
It is rightfully said that “Your Network is your Net Worth”, as it is your network that helps you grow in your career by providing you with different opportunities which you can effectively utilize to excel in your career.
It doesn’t matter whether you are an entrepreneur or a professional, having a good network can give you access to opportunities that you might have thought of as non-existent till now.
When we talk about networking we essentially mean using connections to get jobs or getting business deals for oneself. However, networking, when done with the sole purpose of generating opportunity for self can lead to a loss of trust amongst our network over a period of time.
This is why Value-Added Networking is the best way to network with people as it helps in building trust among the community over a long period while helping all the members of the network benefit simultaneously from various opportunities generated over a sustained period.
Through his various experiences over his diverse career from working as a consultant at BCG to serving his nation as a Minister, Dr. Ong Kian Ming takes us on the journey to network effectively while also helping us explore the importance of Value-Added Networking at the same time.
NETWORKING BEFORE AND AFTER COVID-19
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, many people thought that the word networking means meeting with people over a coffee or in a 5-star hotel and having a chat over various topics. But post the pandemic this definition changed as most such events started taking place over Zoom calls or LinkedIn.
Now, even though networking has transitioned smoothly from offline events to various online modes, the idea of networking has remained the same, i.e., connecting with people from various backgrounds and trying to establish a link that can connect both parties in a way that they can mutually benefit from each other.
GETTING STARTED WITH NETWORKING
Now, networking for extroverts can be a cakewalk, as they already feel comfortable while approaching new people and already possess some essential traits for networking. Extroverts can have an inherent advantage when it comes to human “networking” as compared to introverts, however, For example when done continuously over a period of time, introverts can also develop some traits essential for networking efficiently. While networking with someone, an introvert should take care of the following tips:
Use of Non-Verbal and Non-Body language cues for communicating with someone. For example, the use of facial expressions or gestures while communicating.
Appreciating the boundaries of other people and not getting disappointed when we don’t hear from someone over a period of time, as this is not a personal rejection, but rather an issue of time commitment/availability of the other party.
Do some research on the background of the person before reaching out to them. As this can save a lot of time for both parties and make the flow of conversation faster.
While networking with someone, the most important aspect is our ability to add value to others. If we can add value to the other person then it helps in building our goodwill, which can lead to the generation of many valuable opportunities for us.
Some people are very good at networking and they use it in a very effective manner to create opportunities for themselves and others. Such people follow certain aspects while networking to ensure the best result for all the parties. Some of these aspects to take care of while networking are:
1. Effective Follow Up
After networking with someone it is essential that we follow up with that person within a specific period to ensure that the particular network stays active and effective.
2. Gaining Trust
In networking, it is very important to gain the trust of others. One way to gain trust is to invest time and effort in that relationship and let that person know of your efforts in building that relationship. This also leads to value addition in that relationship.
3. Providing all the relevant information
When reaching out to someone regarding any opportunity, we should take care of providing them with all the relevant information that might be required by that person. For instance, if there is any deadline for any opportunity, then let your network know about it respectfully, so that they are aware of all the nuances.
4. Matter of Principles
Networking is all a matter of principles, as every person has their unique principles which they apply while networking with someone. These principles can make or break a person’s reputation in their network, so it is important to choose your principles carefully.
5. Personal Sacrifices
Sometimes to do networking, you might be required to make personal sacrifices from your end to gain trust and make connections with others. But such sacrifices can enhance goodwill among your network.
For example, as a politician, networking with the members of the opposition party might be considered a political risk in the short term as a candidate, however, such sacrifice might be valued over the long term by your competitors who would then take your decisions more considerately as you would have put in efforts to build a network with them.
6. Using Referrals Effectively
To avoid the chances of rejection while networking, taking the route of referrals can help avoid such events. Having mutual connections helps, as it can lead to more trust when you’re networking.
7. Listen to Understand
While networking we must listen to understand the other person, this helps in empathizing with others and helps us respect others better while simultaneously enhancing our relations with the other person.
VALUE-ADDED NETWORKING AND ITS CHARACTERISTICS
Value-added networking essentially means adding value to each network that we build over a period of time. Such networking helps us in building trust among the community and can open various doors which lead to great opportunities.
CHARACTERISTICS OF VALUE-ADDED NETWORKING
1. Always try to understand the needs of the other person
While Networking, always put yourself in the shoes of that other person and try to empathize, so that you easily understand the needs of that person. Once we empathize with others, it helps us to cater to the networking touchpoints through that person’s needs in a way that we would be able to benefit from this as well.
2. Always try to find Win-Win-Win outcomes for all parties involved
When we try to find a win-win-win situation for all the parties involved then it helps in expanding our network through the increased goodwill and trust among the community.
3. Always Follow up
We should always follow up selectively on successful and not-so-successful value-added networking attempts to know what works and doesn’t. This can help to build our networking strategy along the way through skillful adaptation to different situations.
SLOW AND STEADY WINS THE RACE
Usually, many young students and professionals don’t have a reliable network that is big enough and trustworthy to be able to bring together people with the intention of doing Value-added networking.
But, we can do it in small areas and experimental areas and in a purposeful way. Initially, the scope while doing this may be small, but it will help us gain the idea of such value-added networking. Such an experience can be fulfilling to all the participants involved. Moreover, if people know that we can add value to them through value-added networking, it can help build goodwill among the network and help the network grow further over time.
Dr. Ong is the Member of Parliament for Bangi, the constituency with the largest number of voters in Malaysia. He is also the Assistant National Director for Political Education for the Democratic Action Party (DAP), the party with the largest number of parliamentarians in Malaysia (at the time of writing).
Dr. Ong was the Deputy Minister of Ministry of International Trade & Industry (MITI Malaysia) for 20 months. He was formerly a lecturer at UCSI University, a researcher at the Socio-Economic Development and Research (SEDAR) Institute and the Institute of Strategic Analysis and Policy Studies (INSAP), and a consultant with the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) in the Kuala Lumpur office.
Dr. Ong was a former Fulbright Scholar and holds a PhD in Political Science from Duke University, an MPhil in Economics from the University of Cambridge, and a BSc in Economics from The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). He was also an ASEAN Scholar in Singapore.