With more than 10-year working experience in professional relationship building and currently Senior Expert Consultant Relations at Comatch, VSNE mentor – Céline Nguyen is proud to gain trust from all people that know her both professionally and privately. To her, it is the key to not only learn and improve oneself but also to help each other. With a strong passion for networking and connecting people with different personalities and experiences, Céline Nguyen shares her five tips to build trusting and long-lasting relations.
“Coming together is the beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” Henry Ford.
To you, what is a trusting and long-lasting relation, and why do we need it?
To me, a trusting and long-lasting relation is in which both sides find each other reliable for no limited time, like a life-long time. Networking creates opportunities for you to know more, learn more, and grow. People could gather ideas and experiences, such as tips or tricks and failures and lessons from others. With the right networking mindset, you can create new contacts, gain new partners, new clients, new businesses…
Good way of networking is something that brings success in life in either a professional or private way. When you build a long but also positive and honest relationship, you always get positive things such as trust, loyalty, and confidence from that.
Does who, when, and where a person does networking affect?
It depends. If you have clear goals such as recruiting, finding a new job, or winning a specific new client for your business, where – when – who you meet really matters. If not, networking, in general, could be with whomever, whenever, and wherever. The most important thing is an open mindset. Networking is not only business-related. You do not need to know C-levels or directors to confidently say that you have a network. Many people claim that they don’t have any network, but the fact is that everyone has a network. It starts from families, friends, neighbors, ex-classmates, or ex-colleagues, then how wide your network depends on your interest and effort to widen it. Your mindset decides whether you limit or leverage your networking potential.
Could you share 5 tips to build trusting and long-lasting relations?
What is really really important for me is to be honest, and transparent in communication. You should tell your networking purposes or your goals when you meet people. Don’t simply take advantage of people and their networks. Some people try to build a network just to use it one time and forget the people who help them. It’s a very negative and wrong approach.
The second thing is to be truly interested in the person you are talking to. It requires not only listening skills but also emotional intelligence and interview skills. Don’t talk only or listen without noticing. People will realize if you are truly interested in them or not. In order to have an interest in people, you need first to know who you are, what you want, how you like to network, and who matches that.
Third, to be respectful and reliable is very crucial. Keeping informed or following up with people you met and showing your appreciation to them are the keys. After receiving time or support from others, if you disappear, it only reflects disrespect and ungratefulness. As a result, they will not advise or help you again. Also, reliability means keeping promises or not promising impossible things or out of your ability.
Next, be prepared before the meeting. For instance, read people’ LinkedIn profiles or ask for information from other people, search for information about their expertise, and what they like if they volunteer for a cause. It will not only help you impress that person, but it will show your effort and serious intentions to know them. People, in return, will be more open and connected to you.
Last but not least, customize your relations in a way that makes others feel special and show your appreciation for them. It could be a hand-written Christmas greeting or when you see or do something reminding you of them, let them know. Professionally, you should have a tracking tool or a way to track your relations so that you don’t forget anyone.
Could you share a success story when you used your tips?
So far, I would say that my biggest success is the trust I have gained from all people in my network and the positive feedback I received from them. One good example of networking is a story about when I first settled and wanted to find a job in Germany. Although my network in Germany was not wide at that time, I decided to start with my current network. I contacted my French ex-colleagues, whom I thought very international, for advice. Then I got a recommendation to join a French meetup in Berlin, which was open for all French people with any professional background. Berlin is a multicultural city with many communities from different countries. If you are new to Europe, you could, for instance, start from Viet-rooted groups such as VSNE here. So I joined the event, met many new people, and had interesting conversations with them.
After the event, I gave them text messages saying thanks and mentioned that I would like to keep in touch with them with a personal reference to our conversation. For one person, I forgot to ask his contact details. I proactively asked the organization team for those. I reached out to that person reminding him the context of our 1st meeting and telling him that I would love to hear his experience as an expert, and asked him if he would have only 30 minutes to answer some questions. During the meeting, I asked him for some tips to find a job and asked his point of view about Berlin’s current market situation, and I absolutely never asked for a job. I clearly told him that it was not the purpose of our meeting.
It is important not to put people in an awkward situation, making them feel uncomfortable and questioning the relationship and forcing them to say “No” rather than “Yes.” Also, keep showing that you are not in the position of a person only seeking help but who is talented, willing to learn, and ready for exchanging ideas. Then I got a job at COMATCH. Although nobody helped me directly to get that job, it was important for me to inform people I met about that good news. After a while, the person I mentioned above and with whom I have regular contact reached out to me and asked me if I could help some French newcomers in Berlin as an experienced and reliable person. At that moment, I felt very happy because I gained trust from that expert, and also I could support others from my own experiences, such a great feeling to give back.
“What goes around comes around.”
Which one is more important when it comes to networking? Quantity or quality
Quantity and quality are both important, but I would focus first on the quality of the relationship I build. We are talking about personal relationships, not a commercial transaction like buying products, so it needs to be more qualitative, and people need to invest in it to have good things in return. If you make a lot of contacts, but without quality, then it brings you nothing. It is better to invest in one or two relationships but focus on high quality of interactions; you will gain more value.
Is it good or bad in terms of networking for only short-term benefits?
I think it’s neither good nor bad. I think it depends on the country you’re living in and working; for instance, it seems that the networking habits are different in Vietnam. Since you work and build a startup in Europe, you need to understand European people’s mindset and how networking works in Europe to be integrated and successful. People here expect long-term relationships built on trust. It’s good to keep your own cultural differences, but you have to adapt to the country you live in. Read about different business etiquettes. It’s not only about networking but also about adaptation, integration to get closer to success.
How to define and balance between the giving and receiving values?
Giving and receiving needs to be balanced. When you meet someone, you should share clear expectations and do not have to have a taker’s mindset; you should always think about how you can help the person in front of you… Be true, be yourself, honest and transparent as well as build an emotional link to boost the relation and make the cooperation real.
I know you enjoy meeting new people and networking a lot. However, it is not enjoyable and easy for everyone. For networking beginners, how should they invest or practice networking?
Well, you don’t need to be scared of networking. Don’t be afraid because you don’t have anything to lose and make it fun and adapted to you. I know for some shy people, it’s hard to go somewhere where they do not know anybody. If you do not like big events or crowds, focus on smaller interactions. Before going to an event, reach out to the person you are interested in advance. If you don’t know what to say, keep in mind that most people like to talk rather than listen, so ask questions, and be interested in their answers. And do not forget, do not have a taker’s mindset; try to put people at ease. Be sure that you are not the only one who is also feeling uncomfortable, so be open and treat the persons you meet the way you would like to be treated. People will realize that you really make efforts, so it’s gonna be very well-perceived. Trust in yourself, and people will see it.
Interviewed by Khanh Pham