One of the reasons that I love networking is because people fascinate me. I just simply love getting to know people, their story, their why and to learn about their unique journey. People who have moved country face different challenges, so I wanted to explore how to network in a new country.
As someone who has travelled extensively and built up networks in various countries, it sparked an idea with me to interview people who have moved to Ireland and successfully integrated themselves into the business community.
My initial idea was to do a number of stories in one blog, and I will do this for some of the stories that I have received, but Allan Boyle’s content is so enriching and powerful, I decided to dedicate a whole blog to his tips for networking. There are so many points here, that I continuously say and repeat, lots of golden nuggets and little pieces of inspiration.
There will be a few aha moments and other notes of pennies dropping as you read through Allan’s point of view.
Whether you’ve moved to Ireland, or whether you are moving to any other country, you will have something to learn here, so read on my friend!
I started by asking Allan about some of his back story and his journey.
Where He Started?
He actually developed his networking ability in school. His Dad was in the Navy for the first part of his career and then moved into logistics so they moved around a lot. He went to 4 primary schools and 2 secondary schools across South Africa. ‘You quickly learn to fit in with new crowds and adapt.’, he said. He didn’t fully realise this was a skill until much later in life when he moved into a sales role and he needed to develop his sales pipeline. He was able to reach back into his multiple school networks across the country and find common ground.
When he got back to Ireland in 2018 – he joined a global technology company and because his projects were internally focussed, his networking was for the most part, internally focussed. He would attend different training sessions in different countries where people from other parts of the organisation would attend, and use these sessions to network.
When he started Saltwater Consulting, he needed to become externally focussed again and switch back into business development mode. He joined the Ireland Together network, which was an online community started to provide support to SMEs during Covid. They had a community slack channel, so networking was largely online via slack. He got involved with a few of the channel working groups that he was interested in, such as digital transformation and coaching, and actively participated in these groups, sharing relevant content when he could.
In a previous life he had worked with Shay Cahill and they got on very well together. Shay went on to start Venture Business Network, a series of well structured networking groups that meet weekly. It was a no brainer for Allan, as a new business owner, to join one of Shay’s groups. He meets a group of around 20 people every Thursday morning at 7am for an energetic and focussed network session.
Why He Started?
In 2008 he had transitioned to a business development and sales role after many years in technical IT roles. He had just moved back to Cape Town from Ireland.
In sales a you need to be able to connect dots and to do that you need to meet a lot of people, way more than when he was in technical or operational roles. He realised back then that he really enjoyed networking and paying it forward… and the favours were returned.
How He Started?
In 2008 when he first got into sales – he used Linkedin and Twitter from an online perspective and attended a lot of digital agency events. He provided cloud infrastructure solutions and the digital agencies were ideal candidates for cloud as they ran numerous online media campaigns and had to have the ability to scale their IT rapidly. Twitter was big back then and the agency bosses where all very vocal on twitter, so a great platform to engage. ‘You can engage with someone on Twitter or on Linkedin and then meet them in person at an event,’ Allan says, ‘and you already have some common ground.’
What Are the Benefits of Networking?
Allan says that it helps reduce the degrees of separation between you and your next business opportunity.
Talking to people is great, especially during Covid.
Having access to networks and contacts is good.
Trying to go it alone is not good.
You also learn about shared interests which in turn strengthens the network. For example I found out that some of the people in my Thursday network group also enjoy mountain biking and as a result we meet up most weekends for a spin. That’s where the real lasting relationships develop.
What Are The Downsides?
It takes effort, and the reward only comes later.
If you are looking for a new job then do research on where and what you want to do and carefully select the events you want to attend in that industry so that you can meet the relevant hiring managers. If you are looking for new clients or new business, again, do your research.
You need to strike a balance on how much time you are committing to networking.
If you attend every networking session – early mornings and late nights, you will burn out. You won’t be able to offer value to anyone and you will come across as desperate.
Make time for yourself and for your deep meaningful work. If you spend all week trying to network, then you will be overloaded with follow ups and introductions etc the following week.
Be intentional. Lean into networking for a few days, then switch back to deep meaningful work such as building your next product, or writing the next article.
It’s a long game – if you are just networking to pitch your product or sell the new shiny thing that your company wants you to sell, then you will fail.
Allan’s Top Tips for Networking Success
1. Adding Value First
Don’t sell or pitch – see how you can add value first. Be curious about what the other person does, what they need and try find a way of creating value for them FIRST.
That may be an introduction, it might be advice or an offer to mentor.
What goes around comes around and the favours will be returned down the line. There is no need to keep score either.
Always look to offer value not to extract it.
2. Have the Banter
In Ireland you need to be prepared to network in different situations and settings. It doesn’t always have to be a formal network event after a conference. The Irish are friendly so be friendly. Have a bit of banter. Open up about some of your war stories and failures and big learnings. Be vulnerable and let people in.
Networking happens everywhere. At a formal network group, with other parents on the side of sports field, or even in the pub where you are introduced to a friend of a friend.
Always be curious and ask questions.
3. Put The Effort In
Put effort in – if you are doing an introduction, create context for both people, and write a personal introduction. Always give context.
Allan says, ‘If I’m talking to a friend at a conference and another contact I know walks up. I will stop and introduce both people and how I met them and what they do. Only then will I continue with the conversation.’ Don’t leave the third person waiting on the side trying to figure out who you are talking to!
4. Follow Up
Always follow up, and relate back to your initial conversation. Connect on Linkedin – send them and email send them an article you wrote or offer some sort of value.
When someone introduces you to a contact in your network – be sure to follow up. These introductions are valuable. Don’t annoy people off by not following up.
Say thank you – if you got introduced to someone and that leads to an opportunity, then circle back and thank the person that introduced you. They will get value from knowing that they are adding value!
I hope that you found Allan’s tips to be of benefit to you. I know I certainly did! I’ve hyperlinked his company, Saltwater Consulting and Allan’s Linkedin profiles, so be sure to reach out to him and connect directly.
Let’s keep the #networking conversation going! You can join my mailing list too and I’d love to have you on board.
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