Ask All Hands: How We Do Our Own Networking
Updated: Jan 4, 2022
Between our events and the blog, we host and share quite a lot of discussion around the topic of networking. Recently we’ve been receiving more questions about how we actually approach our own personal networking, so we decided to share it on the blog. Hope you enjoy it and sorry for any overlap, we wrote them separately.
Danny’s up first.
What networking have you been doing in the past two months?
Firstly, it needs to be known that my day job requires that I network like a maniac. I need to know a range of decision-makers from different sectors and industries in Taipei. These individuals are essentially leads for me to inquire whether their company is willing to host foreign graduate students for long-term paid internships. I network for business development, not so much for my personal career development – this distinction naturally defines my approach.
Fortunately, our company provides for certain membership and event fees. We are members of both the Canadian and British Chambers of Commerce, which allows me to go to events at a discount. Apart from the All Hands events John and I have been working on, in the last couple months I have been to four Chamber of Commerce events, three start-up networking events, and two governmental events on law making that concern the foreign community. Professionally, I need to be the spider in the centre of a network of companies that are potentially willing to give foreign graduates a paid-internship: the more I weave this web, the better I become at sniffing out opportunities and job openings. This also has a benefit for All Hands: I meet resourceful decision makers who can be potential panellists and offer unique perspectives.
How would you describe your approach to networking? Any tips?
As it happens, I have a life and I don’t want to spend too many week nights away from my guitar and football. Hence, my initial approach involves cherry picking events. Cherry picking is simple enough: understand and research the networking event focus, industry focus, the topics, the organizers and their vested interest, the panel, past events, past photos, the size of the crowd, etc. My tip would be to visualise what the ideal situation would be for your networking and then tailor your approach. Do your homework: make a list of a few ‘must-meets’ and let the host or organizer introduce you. Next time you are at one of our events, approach John or me and start picking our brains, we are more than happy to point you in the right direction.
Here’s how I approach attending events. First, I scan the room hoping to see a few familiar faces. I acknowledge these acquaintances and always take the time to greet them. It may seem slightly counter-intuitive to get the same name cards from familiar acquaintances, but it can put you at ease and anchor you in a sea of strangers. I try to treat these familiar contacts as gatekeepers to their groups of contacts and start branching out. Divide and conquer the room, and if it is going well I’m chatting to unfamiliar people in no time. Obviously, it is not a bad thing to have fun chatting for an hour and a half to familiar people, it just might not be as beneficial to the purpose you set out at the beginning of the night. For instance, if you want to find an entry-level job as an international student, seek out HR or recruiter professionals who can give you sound advice, or if you want to transition from English teaching to some other career you may want to seek out individuals who have made that jump. Again, network with goals in mind. Socializing for the sake of socializing can be done in a bar any night of the week.
Be proactive in greeting new people – I find being direct (but informal) about your purpose of being at the event is useful. ‘I’m here to see if there are any companies interested in taking on foreign graduate interns for a few months…’ I use this kind of line a lot. This directness usually puts people at ease, and you can skip the mind-numbing foreplay of talking about how long you have been in Taiwan and how much you love the infrastructure. Signalling your purpose also makes it easy for the other person to share their opinions and, hopefully, signpost useful people in the room. Skipping the small talk also gives you a better chance of getting involved in a genuine, interesting conversation.