Networking in a New Country
What I’ve Learned About Networking as an Immigrant
I always knew networking is an essential skill, but I only came to value it seriously when I moved halfway around the world. In my MBA program I learned to present myself well and communicate effectively, but I always felt something was missing from that equation. I needed to do more to be successful.
Now, as a recent immigrant from New Delhi to Toronto, I’ve been forced to step completely outside of my established network. It’s tougher than I imagined. Being an immigrant means you’re vulnerable – you have to start cold, in a country where you know nobody. Starting from zero can feel impossible, but the first step to knowing many people is simply to make a few solid connections.
Here’s what I wish I had learned about networking years ago. It’s these core elements that have led me to meet many fascinating VCs, startup founders, and angel investors in my new country.
Expect Nothing in Return (Be Genuine!)
In my years of living in different cities and traveling around the world, I’ve found that the most powerful networking tip is this: expect nothing.
Most of us find networking difficult and unnatural because it can feel transactional. With everyone out to get something in return, everyone has their guard up. I adopted the opposite mindset. I started focusing more on the process than the outcome.
The truth is, you can’t be genuinely liked until you genuinely like others. I’ve found that the best way to form a lasting connection is to be curious about the other person. Even if someone can’t help your career right away, this is the most appropriate approach. Somebody who’s between jobs now might find success a year later – you never know who will become a valuable connection.
It can be hard when you move someplace entirely new to think this way. The pressure is on to form relationships right away. But by taking it slow, I became more relaxed and natural (and made more great connections).
Build Credibility Online
When you’re starting from nothing in a new place, it’s essential to put your best foot forward online. Because you’re sending messages cold there’s no social pressure for anyone to respond. By portraying yourself well on professional networking sites (and your website if you have one) you give potential contacts the information they need to decide to meet you.
Here are some things I did to improve my web presence:
I wrote a summary of my background, accomplishments, and career goals. That made it easy to introduce myself in messages.
I updated my LinkedIn and BrightCrowd profiles with a friendly picture and a clear summary.
I made my messages clear – they’re short but informative, use appropriate greetings, and are always proofread. I always thank my contact, too.
See if you can offer something
Every time I network, I ask if I can help the other person in any way. When you get in the habit of paying it forward, offering help feels more natural and less transactional. It’s a simple matter of practice.
Always make the offer even if someone can’t help you, and even if they don’t need anything from you. You’ve kept the networking cycle going, and left your door open with your newfound connection.
I knew about 3 people when I moved here. By offering to help the people in their networks, my own has grown by leaps and bounds. People are always offering to introduce me to someone else, creating valuable new links in my Canadian network.
Though I am still learning to be a better networker, this giving, positive mindset has helped me immensely. Remember, you can always message me on BrightCrowd if you’d like to discuss networking, startups, or life as an immigrant.
Tarun Babbar is an MBA from Cornell University with a decade of experience in helping grow organizations in the technology and e-Commerce space. He has led customer acquisition & retention, analytics, products, sales, and business development in North America, Australia, and India. He enjoys traveling, mountaineering, fitness activities, and improving thinking & human potential. He’s an aspiring entrepreneur who just began his journey in Toronto.