042 - Networking is about giving, not taking with Kingsley Aikins

The more you give out, it'll come back to you. It's hard to know when and where and how, but it will. Really good networkers understand that, providing value to others drives them.

"If you just only want networking because you want to get, it soon becomes obvious and people will avoid you. We must keep giving at the heart of every interaction" - says Kingsley Aikins.

Kingsley Aikins is networking and diaspora expert, a CEO at the Networking Institute. He leads a committed group of individuals who have decades of experience working in the core areas of Philanthropy and Fundraising and Diaspora Engagement.

Kingsley Aikins gained his knowledge from 21 years of running Irish diaspora organisation and living in six countries. Throughout his career he worked in trade & investment, philanthropy, education and business. Throughout his extensive experience he has come to appreciate the power of networking and he sees it as the ‘glue’ that makes everything happen.

He is regularly following and reflecting on the development of the industry and is inviting you to follow him on LinkedIn.

As a refresher for those that are not that familiar with networking, according to "Learn to Love Networking" article by Tiziana Casciaro, Francesca Gino, Maryam Kouchaki in the Harvard Business Review, networking is a necessity of todays workplace and "professional networks lead to more job and business opportunities, broader and deeper knowledge, improved capacity to innovate, faster advancement, and greater status and authority. Building and nurturing professional relationships also improves the quality of work and increases job satisfaction".

According to Tiziana Casciaro, Francesca Gino, Maryam Kouchaki there are four strategies that can help us to network: focusing on learning, identifying common interests, think broadly about what you can give and find a higher purpose. These strategies can be applied in many contexts and help to advance a society as a whole.

"I knew that that was the glue that would allow me to be successful in these countries was to have a network. I couldn't do it on my own. I had to build a collaboration, connections, relationships to help me get what I wanted to go."- says Kingsley Aikins.

More thank 20 years ago Kingsley Aikins got a posting there for a job in Australia, where he

didn't know a single person. To succeed he had to to build a strong and diverse network.

Where to start with networking?

Kingsley says that several times he questioned his parent's advice to work hard, keep his head down and keep out of trouble. That wasn't very good advice, because we live in a world where you need to become known expert in a specific field.

You don't have to become famous, or as he says you don't have to become a Kardashian. People should associate you with something. When your name is mentioned, it's got to come up with trigger people's thoughts in their head, the adjectives they use to describe you. And that's something you've got to work on.

In other words, it means that nowadays all of us have our personal brand. Whether you like it or not you already have your personal brand.

Now you've got to decide, will you define your personal brand or it will be done by other people? Unfortunately, when you let other people decide your personal brand is not the brand you want - says Kingsley Aikins.

Defining your personal brand is hard, because it should be clear not just to you, but others too.

Kingsley Aikins says that you have to think of yourself as "the chairman CEO and managing director of a company, a startup company called 'me.inc' or 'you.inc.' In other words, you have to take responsibility for your own career trajectory. Because nobody else will. Do you think your boss and your boss's boss cares more about you are themselves and their career?"

So you have to actually take responsibility. First of all you, decide on your own branding, then put together the strategy and tactics. That means making certain decisions, investing in yourself, investing in time, gaining better skills, making sure you're asking the right questions, getting those connections, sponsors and advisors.

How to be good at networking?

Kinsley Aikins says that the best networkers are great listeners. They think about what they can give to people, not what they will get or can sell to others. You must be a good listener and really try to add value to every connection you have.

To be a good networker you need to be a really good listener. Networking is making serendipity and luck and chance sort of happen for you. Meaning, that you must put yourself out here, participating in trending topics, attending events, reaching out to people.

And you don't need to be perfect at everything you do. You can start by improving what you already do by just 1%, one small amount. In this case your network can be the change maker. It's also about developing a soft skill and a lot of research these days saying that your soft skills. I've got to be more important for your career progression than your hard skills, because everybody has the hard skills. The differentiator can be the soft skills, hard skills we say, get you on the ladder, soft skills, get you up the ladder.

Life is a game of inches. The difference between winning and losing success and coming second can be very, very narrow- says Kingsley Aikins.

Kingsley Aikins recommends concept developed by Carla Harris, Vice Chairman and Managing Director at Morgan Stanley. She says, everybody in their network needs three types of people, who would help us to grow in our careers. Everyone should have a sponsor, mentor and advisor. They need to have an advisor, who would help them technically with their job. You may make them explain some of the intricacies of their job.

They need to have a mentor is somebody who will listen to them. They will tell you the good, the bad and the ugly.

However, the most important person in a company is your sponsor. The sponsor in your organisation. It is somebody who cares about your progress in the organisation, you can get through life without a mentor. You cannot go up without a sponsor.

Every decision about your future, about your career promotion, about your compensation, about what projects you take on will be taken by a group of people sitting in a room and you won't be in that room- says Carla Harris.

So unless somebody is willing to speak up for you or less when your name is mentioned in this room, you will not reach your full potential. You need somebody who says, I know this person, she is good. She doesn't make mistakes. You can really count on her. She's trustworthy. So that's an important thing to have in your career advisor, a mentor and most importantly a sponsor.

Other questions addressed in the interview with Kingsley Aikins:

  • How to create a successful networking organisation?

  • Why networking is beneficial for all individuals?

  • How countries are using diaspora politics to decrease a brain drain? With examples from Ireland, Germany and Lithuania.

  • Why diaspora networking is noncompetitive industry?

  • How did COVID-19 changed the industry?

Article is written by Ruta Naujokaitė, who is as well a host at Lithuanian Dream Podcast and the president at LEO in Berlin. Ruta is a Marketing Manager with 7 year’s experience across NGO and digital health sectors. Specialising in digital marketing and passionate about gender equality and bringing Lithuania to the global digital map. She is looking forward to network with people passionate about leadership and marketing in digital health space.