Tangible Benefit of networking

Along the way, some have asked me to give examples of tangible benefits of networking and even some students from my CFA class have recently approached me for career advice.  I shared with them my experience of how I joined the industry and passed them some reading material to help them get started. I have been very pleased with myself for having linked up a relatively competent guy with my teacher Albert many months ago and linked up a few other pals in the industry through networking events I organized in June/July ’08 and helping CFA Singapore spread the word about their events.  These are some of the tangible benefits enjoyed by people who have known me.

Apart from that, I see an area in me that is clearly lacking – the ability to judge a person’s credibility – after a fella I knew from networking event pulled a fast one on me on TWO occasions.

The Incidents

The first occasion was after I referred the fella for an internship at my firm, and the second more recent encounter was my reference for the fella at CFA Singapore for a teaching assignment.

I do not wish to go into any details of the two occasions, but in a nutshell, the fella decided not to fulfil the roles (after spotting a better opportunity) and wasted our time for giving her the opportunity.  The second occasion was even more reflective of the fella’s lack of credibility because there was already some form of agreement via email to deliver the course and yet the fella could pull a fast one after spotting a better opportunity in Hong Kong.

Call for Credibility

I just had lunch with my former co-worker and we had a chat about the conduct of this fella. A lack of credibility of an individual will eventually catch up with him. This is because the finance industry is a relatively closed industry and word will spread around.

We also find that many jobs in the finance industry are filled by referral or word of mouth. Hence building strong networks is especially important. Employer do prefer someone with assurance of competency (and also reliability) when he was recommended by a team member.

When I was with my previous employer, the big boss used to say:

Hire and promote first on the basis of integrity; second, motivation; third, capacity; fourth, understanding; fifth, knowledge; and last and least, experience.

Motivation is dangerous without integrity.

Capacity is impotent without motivation.

Understanding is limited without capacity.

Knowledge is meaningless without understanding.

Experience is blind without knowledge.

Experience is easy to provide and quickly put to good use by people with all the other qualities.

From the quote you can see that integrity (aka credibility) is on top of everything else. Regardless of one’s competency, one can’t go too far if his lack of credibility eventually catches up.

Credibility is not just your own matter

Through these episodes, I have also become aware that my own credibility can also be at stake when I refer or recommend somebody for opportunities. Very often, I encounter people at networking events who, after just a 10-15 min chat, will start asking me for possible opportunities. To these people I hardly know, I usually shake my head as they can ask such questions when they haven’t even built any rapport.

Imagine if I start referring people like nobody’s business to any conceivable opportunity. Eventually, by the law of large numbers, some of these people will turn out to be less credible and this will let me down. This is because others are gonna be sceptical of the people I recommend moving forward. The moral of the story here is: know the person (competency + CREDIBILITY) well first for a period of time, before making any references or recommendations.

Come With Proper Mindset

Next, we also need to network with the proper mindset. Recently, someone wrote to me that his personal experience on networking has not been very positive. He feels that

The environment feels like a feeding ground where most people just want to know what you can offer

I think the comment is valid as I also have unpleasant experiences on networking along the way. Having said that I have been fortunate to have met many people who have gone out of their way to help me. I tend to network with the mindset of sharing ideas, hoping that the people I network with will reciprocate.

Networking is really a two-way street. If we realize that the other party always wish to squeeze us and get things, we can choose to avoid after a while. If the individual persists in just taking and not giving, he is unlikely to go far in this networking journey. That’s because eventually people will also stop talking to him.

The problem with many people is they expect “instant gratification”, especially with juniors. i.e. What can I get out of this guy shortly after I talk to him. My teacher used to say “build on the relationship carefully….”. I did not quite understand this last time. Now with more of my personal experiences, I finally understand that. Successful networking needs much time, effort and sincerity, while taking care of our own credibility.  Most importantly, you need to build trust and credibility over time.

I wish everybody success in their networking journey to meet like-minded people.