By Dee Allan

Did you know that many animal groups have acquaintances and, like humans, some species can actually form true friendships. Intelligent animal species such as monkeys, horses and elephants have shown they can live within complex structures and form bonded social groups and stable ‘relationships’ across species. They seek out connections.

Having each other’s back is key to survival in today’s modern world, as it is in the animal kingdom too. Wolves pack together; bees swarm; birds flock. This ‘togetherness’ maintains a stable ecosystem. We can learn a lot from the animal kingdom, which teach us that working together, setting aside differences and connecting with a common
purpose is an incredible skill to master.

Animals and Networking
So what has this got to do with networking where humans are concerned? Well, in short, wildlife populations teach us that the entire ecosystem thrives when populations play off one another. Or, put another way, the balance of giving and receiving defines the ultimate ‘value’ of someone’s network.

Singapore presents an ideal environment to create a valuable personal network, due to the following:

• It’s a tiny island, you are never too far away from locating your target contact
• There is a thriving networking scene full of exciting events and meetups
• We have an entrepreneurial hotbed of startups as well as corporate headquarters located on our tiny Red Dot
• The cultural diversity here promotes networking. People are generally open to meeting new friends and acquaintances

With the above major positives in mind, creating meaningful networks should be part of everyone’s daily lives.

Networking and Brushing Teeth
If you really want to create a valuable network where you give or receive assistance at some level, then networking needs to become a daily activity.

Whether you realize it or not, you have been networking all your life. As a child you networked in the playground, at school and when you pursued a hobby. Kids are amongst the best networkers around. We can really learn from them when it comes to making connections with ease.

Despite us all knowingly or unknowingly networking, there are some distinct strategies that can help you network with sophistication and purpose.

So powerful is networking, that you can network your way into your next dream job and completely by-pass job-boards, agents and rejection letters.

A well-networked individual connects with others whenever an opportunity arises. At the school gates, in the supermarket line, at the bank, at social gatherings, play dates, gym classes and so on and so forth. In the end, these individuals become ‘valuable’ as they connect others and, over time, become influencers within their circles.

Start to think of networking as important as anything else that forms part of your daily routine, like brushing your teeth, and you will be well on your way to becoming a valuable connector and/or influencer in your own right.

Networking Your Way to Your Dream Job
Sophisticated networking occurs when you purposefully position yourself within environments where you can rub shoulders with the people you wish to target.

Here, pro-networkers seek out events, workshops, networking breakfasts, lunches, dinners, seminars and conferences to source individuals who can help ‘move the needle’ towards the intended direction.

For example, if you were a marketing professional, you may seek out marketing events and target the speaker lineup who often tend to be decision-makers, influencers and connectors themselves. These sorts of people may prove to be extremely powerful connections in helping to make further introductions for you.

Give and Take
When I embark on purposeful networking (networking to fulfill a particular objective; for example, meeting new clients), it’s prudent to adopt a ‘give’ mindset first and foremost. This means looking for opportunities to add value to the connection before requesting any help.

Asking for a favor when you don’t know someone is not always conducive to building a strong network. So, where possible, look to offer help in the form of advice, thoughts, articles, share events, make introductions, or volunteer before asking for anything that would benefit you.

Coffee Meetings
Singapore’s coffee scene is thriving. So many networking meetings and business opportunities are discussed over the aroma of roasted coffee beans.

You should look to personalize and deepen your relationships with contacts over coffee, drinks or lunch where possible. These meetings give you uninterrupted time to get to know your contact, see how or where you can add value for them and, if appropriate, request their
help too.

A quick step-by-step guide to networking
Networking can be daunting for some. Having a process or blueprint and repeating the steps over and over, will make networking easier.

• Decide what your objective is (job hunting, making friends, finding a volunteering opportunity, etc.)
• Research relevant events where you can meet your desired connections
• Use LinkedIn to find the relevant contact names and titles of those attending the event. Connect, like articles, post comments and send introduction messages where appropriate
• At the events, approach contacts and introduce yourself with your business card. Remember to ask them for their contact/business card, too
• Connect with other individuals you meet on LinkedIn/Whatsapp and send a message requesting a coffee meeting where appropriate
• At the coffee meeting, look for how you can add value to your new connection before asking them for help with your own agenda
• Send out thank-you cards or messages, thanking your contact for their time (I prefer sending physical cards to leave a lasting impression)
• Schedule a follow-up with your contact, so you don’t ‘love them and leave them’. A forgotten connection is not really a valuable
contact at all
• Share contacts, articles or events that may be useful to your connection. They will appreciate the gesture and likely reciprocate
• Keep in touch with your network, especially those who have helped you, or are connectors/influencers. A simple text message will suffice andkeep you fresh in their minds

In conclusion...
Networking is fun and powerful when done with a giving attitude and with a purpose in mind. We are social-beings who thrive on human connections, so try networking your way to your next dream job or
volunteering mission.