Why networking with CREDIBILITY and Proper Mindset is IMPT in finance industry [24 Jan 09]

Happy new year to all!

Before I start today’s topic, I wish to address a question that some recipients of my email have asked me: am I doing MLM or sales given my proactive approach in networking?  Before I answer that, let me give a simple analogy to illustrate.  We know that men wear pants (not skirts)—call this Statement A.  Does this imply Statement B: people who wear pants are ALL men?  Of course not, becoz ladies can wear pants too!  This is an example of Statement A implying Statement B, but not the other way around.  Using a similar argument, MLM or sales people need to be active in networking to survive, but people who are active in networking may not be doing sales or MLM.  Those who know me personally will certainly know that my mailers are just pure sharing of experiences and views.

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 thru networking events I organized in Jun/Jul 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 saw an area in me that is clearly lacking—the ability to judge a person’s credibility—after a fella I knew from a networking event pulled a fast one on me on TWO occasions.  The first occasion was after I referred the fella for internship at my firm, and the second more recent encounter was my reference for the fella at CFA Singapore for a teaching assignment.  Without going into details, it suffices to say that the fella broke a promise she made earlier and hence reflects poorly on her integrity.  The second occasion was even more reflective of the fella’s lack of integrity becoz 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 HK.

I just lunched with my former co-worker and we had a chat about the conduct of this fella.  We feel that inability to fulfill promises reflects a lack of credibility on an individual and this will eventually catch up with him/ her, especially since the finance industry is a relatively closed industry and word will spread around.  We have found out for ourselves that many jobs in the finance industry are filled by referral or word of mouth, whether we like it or not, hence building strong networks is especially important.  This makes sense becoz an employer would probably derive greater assurance of the candidate’s competency (and also reliability) if he/she was recommended by an existing member of the team.

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. Without integrity, motivation is dangerous; without motivation, capacity is impotent; without capacity, understanding is limited; without understanding, knowledge is meaningless; without knowledge, experience is blind. Experience is easy to provide and quickly put to good use by people with all the other qualities.”  It is obvious from the quote that integrity (aka credibility) is on top of everything else.  Therefore, no matter how competent one can be, one is unlikely to get too far if his/ her lack of credibility eventually catches up with him/ her.

Through these episodes, I have also become aware that my own credibility can also be at stake when I refer/ recommend somebody for job/ opportunity.  Very often, I encounter people at networking events who, after just a 10-15min chat, will start asking me/ others for a possible opportunity.  To these people I hardly know, I usually shake my head as I can’t imagine people can ask such questions when they haven’t even built any rapport or proper relationship.  Imagine if I start referring people like nobody’s business to any conceivable opportunity and eventually, by the law of large numbers, some of these people will turn out to be less credible and cause me to lose credibility, coz others are gonna be skeptical 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/ recommendations.

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 probably valid as I also have unpleasant experiences on networking along the way, but I have also been fortunate to have met many people who have gone out of their way to help me.  I tend to approach networking with the mindset of wanting to share ideas/ stuff with people, hoping that the people I network with will reciprocate along the way.  Networking is really a two-way street: sooner or later, if we realize that the other party is one who always wishes to squeeze us and get things out of us, we can choose to avoid the person after a while.  If the individual persists in just wanting to GET and not GIVE, he/ she is unlikely to get too far in this networking journey, coz eventually other people will also stop talking to him/ her.

The problem with many people is they expect “instant gratification”, 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 networking successfully needs much time, effort and sincerity, while taking care of our own credibility.  Most importantly, trust and credibility needs to be built over time.

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

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