Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Mr. Richard Coller. As a Corporate Relations General Manager at S P Jain, having a great network is essential for him. I find Richard an expert in networking. So, I decided to ask him few questions in his area of expertise.
Why is networking important to you?
“It keeps me in touch with the outside world. By being introduced to new people, there comes new opportunity. The art of networking ensures that personal communication stays alive. Networking offers me more business connections and opportunities.”
Is it important for everyone regardless of their working role?
“It is important to remember that networking does not always happen in a professional environment. Building social relationships or as we call it ‘families and friends’ is also regarded as networking. In principle, both professional and personal networking is the same. Both begin as a basic communication between people who share a common interest in certain areas, for the purpose of opening up new opportunities for both parties. In fact, certain industries do not necessarily need professional external networking facility, such as the back of the house or the support function as much as the front of the house people. Yet in general, it is important for every single person to exercise their personal connection in order to bring them into a whole new world of opportunity.”
How do you develop your network?
“There are a couple of things I do to develop my network. One of them is by being a part of a few professional associations. Also, I do research on what networking functions are available. Every time before I go to a function, I have to make sure that I have a clear goal or purpose in my mind. Usually that goal will sound something like this, ‘I need to connect with at least three people today.’ Besides that, I trained myself to uphold the key principle of networking which is to always question how I can help, not what I can get from the other person I am connecting to.
Here’s a good example. I met Karen Anderson from Consider It Done Australia at a networking function organised by Sydney Olympic Park Business Association (SOPBA). Since then, I have built a strong long-term relationship with her. What I can do to help her is offering students who can potentially work as interns or part-timers for Consider It Done. While on the other hand, Karen helps S P Jain by doing some creative workshops and real-world skills programs for the students.
When we start developing our networks, we need to focus more on building the relationship rather than on offering what we can sell. Particularly in the Australian context, going to a networking function and try to sell is a very undesirable move.”
What are the different methods of networking?
“Besides joining different association which offer active networking activities, informal networking like after-work functions is also another method of networking. You can also do it online through LinkedIn or even Facebook. Remember to be mobile and not getting stuck with the same group of people all the time at a networking function.”
Is there one single most effective way to build an effective network?
“Be genuine is the key. We also need to be ethical and moral. I strongly believe that personal face-to-face approach is always the best way to build an effective network – particularly in the business environment. In the end, people like to do business with people whom they like, know and trust.”
What makes an effective global networking?
“Firstly, it is the commitment. It is not simple to build an effective global network especially when dealing with people from different parts of the world with different time zones. Secondly, every networking activity needs to produce results and serves a purpose. If it doesn’t, it will just waste everyone’s time and energy. Last but not least, depending on the industry you are in, you will need exposure to the greater business around the world to make global networking effective.”
What are the key advantages of having a strong global network?
“By having a strong global network, you will be exposed to different business environments, economies, climates and trends and other forms of international intelligence. This exposure gives you a competitive edge than the rest. More importantly, it provides global opportunities for you to develop your potential work exposure in other countries.
For instance, S P Jain hosts an annual event for educational advisors and counsellors from all over the world in the Sydney campus. At the last event we had, I connected with the Manager of International Relations and College Counselling from The Olympia Schools in Hanoi, Vietnam. To date, we keep in regular contacts, sharing information on education and general studies. I find this very valuable for me and I believe for her, too.”
In summary, networking is not an event where you schmooze and booze without any specific intention other than being seen and socialise. It is more than a platform where you can collect and distribute business cards. It is really an opportunity for you to build mutual relationships which at some time in the future can bring you to greater places.
So, start joining networking events and update your LinkedIn profile. Let’s do it for the right reason and in the right manner, hence the network will return to you in many ways.