I'm privileged to be invited as a guest speaker for Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Career Fair 2017. Regarded as THE event of the year for the varsity, this year's edition is spread over 3 days and will see more than 240 employers descend on NTU grounds to share about their organisations, job openings and scholarship opportunities.

Speaking on all three days, I was happy to engage the students who had signed up for this talk and seated patiently in the Crimson Room.

I recall with fond memories the time when I too was an undergraduate myself (from NUS). I wished I had made better use of the career fairs back then to build networks and explore different career opportunities. How often can you walk up to an organisation of your choice and just fire away at them with questions you have always wanted to ask? 

Today's blog is dedicated to the art of business networking. Networking sessions have mushroomed over the recent years like new sprouts after a rainfall. Everywhere we turn, we see people organizing and other people attending.

What exactly is business networking? And how do you ensure you survive that business networking?

As the saying goes, “your network is your net-worth.” Others come to get ideas, find potential partners or promote their services.

Let me discuss 3 tips to business networking which, if mastered, will put you in a different league. Whatever your aim of attending a business networking is, bear in mind these three tips as they will help you enjoy the next networking session.

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Tip #1: Arrive Early

If you have signed up for a business networking session, make sure you arrive early. There are many advantages of arriving early. Let me list three of them for you.

Firstly, it allows you to relax and check your attire again. First impressions matter and what you wear (including how you wear it) speaks volumes even before you open your mouth to speak.

Secondly, arriving early gives you the rare chance to soak in the environment. Singapore is such a fast-paced society that we fail to stop to appreciate our surroundings. I mention this because although business networking sessions take place in a room, some of these rooms have beautiful outdoor views looking towards the city skyline or new downtown. You can also do a quick scene appreciation of the venue and decide where you want to position yourself. One place you certainly do not want to stand is next to the door.

Thirdly, as I mentioned earlier, food is almost always served. Arriving early or on time allows you to have a proper dinner. The latecomers will only be greeted with the crumps. Business networking sessions may stretch and end at about 11pm. That’s definitely not going to help with your dinner plans. So why not settle your dinner first during the networking session before you get down to real business?

 

Tip #2: Wear A Smile

This is one of my secret weapons which I always adopt when meeting both friends and strangers. A smile. 

A smile breaks barriers and transmits a message that you have noticed someone’s presence in the room. It also indicates your willingness to start a conversation of sorts. Only friendly people wear smiles on their faces. The smile transcends all languages, cultures and religions.

Frowns on the other hand have been greeted with sadness and disapproval. You certainly do not want to wear a frown the whole night because if you do, you will just be wasting both your time and money at the business networking event.

When you appear friendly, people naturally gravitate towards you and let down their initial defences. Friendliness breeds friendliness.

 

Tip #3: Build Rapport

Yes there is normally a buffet spread. But that does not mean you keep your eyes fixated on the food. Instead, you should work the room. Working the room simply refers to a three-step process.

Firstly, engage in small talk. No one talks politics or big world issues at networking sessions. Neither do you appear narrow-minded by talking about the increase in transport fares or petrol prices.

Secondly, do your introductions. Very often, you are meeting another business owner or aspiring one for the first time. Mention something memorable about yourself so it sticks in the mind of your listener. 

Thirdly, exchange business cards with others. With that business card in hand, you will know the other person’s profession, industry and areas of interest. If you decide to exchange business cards, ensure you keep in touch with the gentleman or lady. It is pointless collecting a stack of namecards.

Whenever I attend business networking sessions, I make it a point to move from person to person. You don’t want to be stuck with the same person for the entire evening. While some may argue that you have finally found someone who really clicks with you, my point is that there are plenty of opportunities after that evening to continue networking. You certainly do not want to give up the forest for the trees.

Happy networking people! 

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I’m back at Hwa Chong Institution today to share with the JC1 students on the importance of personal image management. 

It is interesting the junior college decided to have two separate sessions of personal grooming talks – one for girls and one for boys. Well, splitting them up is not without its merits as I can focus specifically on each gender. And it was evident the audience appreciated this as well.

There is an important distinction we need to make between image and perception. Very often, the image you attempt to project is not how others perceive you. Simply put, you may dress like a lion with full mane and strut with majesty. Yet others still view you as a kitten. After all, both lion and kitten belong to the feline family.

Here are 3 tips how you can enhance your personal image. I call it the 3D principle.

 

Tip #1: Dress Sensibly

Make sure your clothes are clean and properly ironed. Whether it is your school uniform or clothes for project presentation, the importance of being neat should never be taken for granted.

There are many connotations attached to one’s neatness. Chief of them all is that your neat appearance sends an indirect message that we can expect a certain high standard from your work or presentation as well. This is crucial in today’s economy. 

You are more likely to command better respect and win over your audience too.

So, if I can see visible sweat stains on your shirt or dress, then you know you should do something about it immediately.

My best advice for this is to always keep it cool with natural fibres in hot weather. Cotton remains my all-time favourite and it never goes out of style. Avoid spandex at all cost. You have been warned.

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Tip #2: Dress With Confidence 

Remember, no matter what your body shape may be, the cut of your clothes is always meant to flatter it. Pump up your confidence by playing up your best features. 

For example, if you have wide shoulders and slim legs, avoid details, embellishments and horizontal stripes on top. Also consider wearing darker colours on top and lighter colours at the bottom.

For girls, the hem of your skirt should not be so short that it threatens to slide up further when you sit. 

For guys, there should not be too much excess fabric down at the bottom of the pants. 

 

Tip #3: Dress Quality

As e-commerce becomes increasingly prevalent, we have seen the proliferation of more online shopping portals.

While this is exciting news for us consumers because there are other options besides the brick and mortar shops in the malls, always remember to think quality.

Some online shopping portals offer ridiculously cheap prices. But do not be enticed because the quality may be lacking. 

After all, why pay money to look bad?

Here’s what you can do.

- Check the quality (as there will be many vendors or merchants selling similar items)

- Check the reviews of past consumers (if any)

- Check if the online shopping portals have any return policy (just in case what you ordered doesn’t fit or the quality is lousy)

I operate with this one rule – I would rather spend as much of my clothing budget as possible on quality garments, and not on adding new items to the wardrobe. 

Think quality, not quantity.

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