Guest contribution: Ong Wooi-Hsen
Senior Lecturer, Singapore Polytechnic
Networking: You mean it started without me?
As a trainer in employability and personal branding, many students often ask about networking and how to go about it effectively.

It probably started when they first formed opinions of others, and that it is likely that others would have opinions of us too. What surprises the students is that networking has already begun, whether they are conscious of it or not!
Students commonly feel networking is fake and uncomfortable, and don't know how to begin. One common misconception is that they are being insincere if their objective is to get something from the other party. However, this is not the case, and in this article we'll look at the finer points of networking!

Networking is indeed purposeful, but it can also be sincere, honest, humble, candid, positive, fun etc. It is not just about getting a job or asking for work, and how we carry ourselves to be a positive influence to those around us can become second nature with practice.

Here are some tips to start networking effectively!
Get sociable; meet people (even virtually!)
Widen your circle of friends and acquaintances and be genuinely people-orientated.
While it can be challenging sometimes, especially for introverts, you can start small with your friend's friends online, or even your neighbourhood hawker or cleaner.

Say hello, ask how their day is going, and you'll be surprised how the conversation will flow. Remember to be kind, respectful, and listen to the other party with an open mind!
Use social media effectively
Many people share the same education, industry and interests as you.
Being part of a social network may extend to a professional network - make sure to keep your online presence updated, and to stay active on the relevant platforms.
Share your resume with others
Ask for advice from friends, family or mentors.
They will likely be able to give you input based on their experience, and tips on how to angle yourself better for the job you're interested in. There is also a chance that your resume impresses them and they'll connect you to a potential employer!
Stay focused!
Time is valuable to everyone.
Keep the objective of the discussion in mind so as not to waste your contact's time. Be frank about the assistance you require so they understand your needs and can help you in a more meaningful way.
Allow two-way sharing of information
Networking is about building relationships.
Talk with, not talk to. Ask for opinions and perspectives, listen for information and share your take on the topic with respect, even if you disagree. It is also worth learning more about the other party beyond their professions, you can ask about what inspires or motivates them!
Follow up when you say 'Catch you soon'
Even if you cannot meet up physically, share information and insights when you come across any that may benefit the other person.
It suggests you are in tune with your professional community, and eager to contribute and add value. To show real involvement, give your take on new information.
Be grateful and express it to the other party
Show your appreciation by maintaining a sincere and meaningful bond.
Be truly interested and engage with empathy. Other perspectives are valid too, even if they might be different from yours. Withhold judgement but give your opinion fairly. After all, we like to feel understood and valued for our thoughts instead of being criticised.
Start today and practise!
It's never too late to try out these tips, so give them a go today.
You'll feel more confident about networking, becoming natural and unforced once you get used to it. Join in this social activity now, because guess what? It had already started!
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