Right place, right words
Extroverts obviously find it easier to work a room, but their more reserved colleagues need not necessarily be out of the game. Successful networkers agree that the essential skills can be learned. “I wouldn’t suggest to anybody that the cocktail party is the best place to build deep relationships,” says Keith Pogson, a managing partner at Ernst & Young and past president of the Institute. “You also need to get involved in sitting on committees or bodies and meeting the people in the room. They will then help you meet other people as well.”
Training in networking is an important part of the path towards partnership at Ernst & Young. “There are some fundamental things,” says Pogson. “One is being in the same place as the people you want to be in your network. Two is having something to say. We can all shake hands at cocktail parties and say ‘nice to meet you,’ but if you want to form a lasting relationship you need something a bit more substantial than that to get them engaged. The third thing is that you need to find a way of re-engaging with them after the meeting.”
Cocktail parties are only the most obvious example of business networking activity. William Lo, executive director of finance at the Airport Authority and an Institute member, lists participation in Institute activities, public and social services, taking out club memberships and participation in social media as valuable areas for would-be networkers to explore, in addition to attending dinners and seminars.
“You must believe in the importance and value of networking,” says Lo. “Start with small circles such as friends, colleagues, club members and so on, and treat people as genuine friends.”
PricewaterhouseCoopers partner Kenneth Wong has found his involvement in both the Institute – as a committee member and a member of the IT interest group – and the Information Systems Audit and Control Association, an invaluable foundation for building a strong professional network.
Wong believes that the network he has built up has improved both his effectiveness and his professional standing. “Professional services are provided by people, not professional organizations, and networking can open the door to talking to certain highly regarded individuals.”
Being social, says Wong, helps raise your profile within the profession. “Getting noticed is a big advantage and a benefit,” he says. “One should attend relevant business and social events to help get your name known and a reputation as a knowledgeable, reliable and supportive person who is useful. Another key advantage is having positively motivated people around you.”
Connections can also be made and maintained online through networks such as LinkedIn and even Facebook and Twitter. Successful networkers now tend to pay a certain amount of attention to managing their pages on the Internet.
Pogson also notes that if you are keen to cultivate a potential contact, a Google search for their name can supply a lot of information that will make a conversation with them easier to sustain when you meet.
While the Internet has obviously created new networking channels, successful net-workers stress the importance of actually going out and meeting people.
“No matter how powerful social media is, face-to-face interaction is still important and worthwhile to invest your time in,” says Lo. “Don’t get the wrong idea that you are very successful in networking if you have hundreds or even thousands of ‘likes’ or ‘friends’ in the social media.”
Source: HKICPA's APlus Magazine – March 2013