Networking Basics: How to Broaden Your Professional Network in Taiwan
Updated: Jan 2, 2022
Want to know how to get started networking in Taiwan (or anywhere, really)? Then have a look at these useful tips from Daniel Miller, who started out in Taiwan as an English teacher, before becoming the branch manager for an overseas British company.
Finding work or starting a business in Taiwan is challenging, and to succeed you need all the guanxi (關係) you can get. You need access to people who have done it before, can highlight pitfalls and roadblocks, and are, in general, willing to offer a little friendly advice – this is what creating good connections, or guanxi , is all about. Through our work at All Hands Taiwan, we understand firsthand just how crucial networking is to one’s career in Taiwan. With the ultimate aim of being the most valuable peer-to-peer professional resource network, we organise regular events for professionals, foreign and Taiwanese, to impact their careers through community. This article is a little culmination of what I’ve observed in my time here. I aim to give a few pointers on how to take the first steps toward building a network of connections that will impact you professionally and even personally.
Tip 1: Be honest about your intentions
First, be honest with yourself about what long-term outcomes you want to achieve. Being clear about your goal may seem painfully obvious, but I have personally met plenty of people at events who do not have a focus on networking, they either just want to be in proximity to professionals and opportunities and ‘see what’s out there and feel the professional landscape’ or feel they ‘should probably do some networking.’ Of course, this is great if you enjoy meeting strangers and have the time to do so, but maybe a bar is a better setting if you’re just seeking casual socializing. This may sound a little harsh, but the majority of people at networking events have a special interest or a purpose.
By way of example, when I first arrived in Taiwan as a fresh graduate, I wanted to get a job in international relations, thus I identified Chamber or diplomatic events as a good place to start. I would casually bring up my intention during an initial introduction ‘…oh by the way, do you happen to know anyone who would know more about graduate opportunities, especially ones that offer a work permit for foreign nationals like me?’ Although I didn’t get a job, I was immediately signposted by those I met to their colleagues and connections who hadn’t attended said events. This is a trial and error process, so fully expect events and people to not be directly relevant, but give it time and you will be shown a way. Whether you are seeking internships, mentors, business advice, visa advice, potential business prospects, or a new career or job, it’s best to be direct about your intentions from the start. Be honest with yourself first, in order to be better able to be sincere.
Tip 2: Build a short list of the types of people you would like to meet
Your time is finite, and so is the time of people you connect with. To motivate yourself to network requires a long-term plan. Reverse engineer from your desired outcomes professionally and socially, and identify the people that will help you along the way. Identify types of people you would like to focus your networking on. (Think about potential hiring managers, specific VC’s, other senior leaders or experts in your desired field.) Growing the relevant quality of your network is better than random quantity. For instance, as a job seeker, identify the companies you would like to work for, that align with your values, and where you can see yourself growing professionally. Or you may want advice from certain founders or CEOs. Identify these companies and leaders first and do your research. Take a look at job postings on job boards (or even Facebook) and start cross-referencing HR staff on LinkedIn, if you’d like to directly enquire about relevant opportunities. The All Hands Taiwan website has a job board that is free for job seekers. Ideally, from the resources available online, you will be able to note at the very least 20-30 companies or names of professionals who are of interest.
Tip 3: Actually use LinkedIn (alongside Facebook)
In my humble opinion, LinkedIn is the most important social media platform for professionals in Taiwan, even more so for those new to Taiwan. In addition, although professional communities and networks thrive on Facebook – it is not recommended to approach contacts of interest on Facebook; we are all a bit guarded against strangers there. But on LinkedIn, adding connections of interest whom you have had no previous contact with is permissible, so be street smart, cross-reference names and Groups on LinkedIn, and approach connections that way. Being active on the platform is paramount to expanding your professional network in an efficient and organised manner. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is 100 percent complete and professional. A good way of knowing what’s good is by looking at the profiles of the people you are interested in – this will make you think critically about the first impressions you are projecting, and whether your profile represents you in an accurate and professional manner. For the purposes of compiling a shortlist, use the ‘Connections’ button and click ‘search with filters’ – this is the most important function you can use. For example, if you are looking to start a business, search for Founders and CEOs in your desired industry, who work in fields and areas closely related to yours. On the other hand, as a job seeker you can search for the profiles of hiring managers at the companies you are interested in. Play around with the filters and narrow down your short list. Search for relevant professional groups, too, and keep an eye out for online and offline events. Now it’s time to invite connections and add a short, sweet note like this: ‘Hi XXXX, thanks for the connection, I am looking for YYYY and was wondering if I could ask for a moment of your time to discuss ZZZZ.’ Actually, LinkedIn is the only social media platform I know that actively encourages you to stalk people of interest, so use this to your advantage.