Moving countries is a simultaneously daunting and exciting experience. It can be especially so if you are moving to a place without a stable job already in place and mean to either find one or start your own business. Not knowing anyone in the country doesn’t make your life any simpler. The experience will depend on the country, of course, but if you are moving to Singapore, there really isn’t much to worry about.Singapore is a world-class city that offers one of the best lifestyles globally, boasting great public transport, solid public infrastructure, fantastic healthcare, world-class education facilities, minimal crime rate, and robust communications systems. Singapore is also home to a wonderful local culture and people who are warm and welcoming to foreigners. But despite how westernised Singapore may seem, there are still cultural aspects of the city that may seem hard to understand and challenging to overcome without friends who share a closer frame of reference to you. Hence, the ability to network is invaluable while trying to settle down.
There are two kinds of networking that an expat may need to do in Singapore—business networking to find work and social networking to find new friends. Historically, there has been a large influx of expats to Singapore and as a result social-networking and making new friends is both and easy and fun. There are many associations and clubs that already exist there to help with this. These are a great support system in terms of the social, cultural, and professional needs of expats.
Most expats report that the thing that they regret not doing the most is making friends in a new country, even if their stay is going to be a short one. There are a number of ways to build your social network in a new country, the first rule of which is to put yourself out there. You must seek out opportunities that will put you directly in touch with people. There are a number of ways this may be achieved: being actively involved with the Parent-Teacher Association in your children’s school; being on the board and organising committees of charities; being part of a sports team or hobby club; or even taking part in a bake sale at a fair. You could ask friends in your home country to connect you to friends in Singapore whom you could then meet for a drink, coffee, or dinner. An essential part of networking is the ability to step out of your comfort zone, think out of the box and work all the available social options to you. Let’s look at what these options may be!
If you don’t know anyone in Singapore, a good place to start networking would be with one of the national associations. These were initially established to bring people from the same country together but have expanded their membership to people from other countries as well.
Associations are a great way to be involved in the community and tend to have a small annual fee. Usually these associations send a monthly newsletter with updates of all the activities planned for the month. Associations provide many of the same benefits as a club would—without expensive membership fees!
One of the oldest of these associations is the American Association of Singapore (AAS) which was set up in 1917. Networking events are held regularly (open to everyone and not just American expats) and the association also has a career resource centre which helps expats get jobs.
The list below has the contact details of some national associations in Singapore.
The United States (The American Association of Singapore)
Germany (Deutsche Haus)
Switzerland (The Swiss Club)
Korea (The Korean Association of Singapore)
France (The French Association of Singapore)
Japan (The Japanese Association in Singapore)
Belgium and Luxembourg (The Belgian and Luxembourg Association of Singapore)
Holland (The Hollandse Club)
Netherlands (The Netherlands Charity Association)
Canada (The Canadian Association of Singapore)
Hong Kong (The Kowloon Club)
Australia and New Zealand (The Australian and New Zealand Association)
Britain (British Association of Singapore)
There are a number of associations for expat women as well and these include the American Women's Association, Indian Women's Association, the Scandinavian Women’s Association, the Spanish-Speaking Women’s Association and the Italian Women's Group.
There is also the St. Patrick’s Society of Singapore which caters to people of Irish heritage and people interested in Irish culture; the St. David’s Society of Singapore which caters to people of Welsh heritage; the Singapore St. Andrew’s Society open to Scottish nationals and people who are interested in Scottish culture; and the Africa Society which is an association that caters to people who are from Africa, have worked there, or have strong links to the continent.
Joining a club for very specific interests is also a great way to network with like-minded people. If you own a Harley Davidson motorcycle, you could join the Harley Owners’ Group; the Stage Club is an English language theatre group for people with an interest in theatre; or the Singapore Expats Facebook Group which is open to all expats and is a fantastic opportunity to meet people and make friends. Check if your university has an alumni association in Singapore. This will give you an introduction to many people you already have shared experiences with—without ever having met them!
In addition to associations Singapore has a number of social and sporting clubs that you can join. These are good places to relax with your family, play the sports you are fond of and meet new people. The Singapore Polo Club is one of the best-known clubs in Singapore and boasts a polo field as well as covered and outdoor arenas for horse riders. The Tanglin Club, the British Club, the Hollandse Club, the American Club, and the Swiss Club are also great options for a family club membership. Bear in mind that club memberships tend be expensive and you should carefully consider all your options before committing.
In recent years, a number of professional networking groups have also proliferated in Singapore thanks to the fact that it is one of the main business centres of the Asia-Pacific region. These groups are a great way to network with the people who can really get your career or business ahead.
Some of the major industries in Singapore are electronics, finance and financial services, oil and gas, education, engineering, and media. To get the most of your networking experience, ensure that you identify the most relevant events for your business or job, whether you are looking to start up or build further connections.
However, before you go to a networking event, there are a few things that you must bear in mind to network successfully.
Increase your visibility: when you walk into an event, ensure that you spend time with more than a couple of people and that you really work the room. Try and identify who the right connections are for you and ensure that they leave with your business card. Don’t worry about bringing a conversation to an end and seeming rude. You can always end the conversation both gently and warmly after ten to fifteen minutes by saying that it was good to speak with the person and you should go and circulate now.
Build relationships: this interaction is a chance to build a rapport between you and a stranger. Don’t start a conversation by putting forward your needs because this will only make the other person defensive. You’d like to come across as an affable, intelligent, and professional person with great social skills—not someone who is only interested in professional gain. Some expats report that professionals in Singapore sometimes lack the social skills necessary for successful networking and you shouldn’t fall into that category!
Plan like a pro: never go into a networking event blind. Always have an idea of the people you are likely to meet and have some kind of script ready. There’s no need to memorize this script but across the course of the evening you should be saying more or less the same thing to everyone you meet. This ensures that you come across as consistent and confident. While planning your script it’s a good idea to have an idea about the trends, current and future, in your industry to stand out from the competition.
Be a good listener: this is perhaps the most common mistake at networking events. Most people are usually so busy trying to tell the other person all about themselves that they forget to listen. Not only could you come across as completely self-obsessed and uninterested in a prospective employer’s needs, you may also be barking up the wrong tree and talking to someone who has no use for your skills.
Follow up promptly: ensure that you don’t let more than twenty-four hours go by without following up on the people that you meet at a networking event. There are two factors at play here—firstly, there is a large number of people to keep track of and secondly, you usually get the chance to meet the person only once. In order to deepen your relationship following up immediately is critical.
Use your social media skills: it is very important to have all your social media tools together and you should ensure that your LinkedIn profile is fully updated, should someone look you up after a meeting. Having a blog, Twitter, and Facebook is also beneficial. However, don’t let this be your only means of networking. Ensure that you socialise and get yourself out there. Meeting people is still best way to make an impact, no matter how impressive your social media presence, because there are likely to be many people with the same skills on their LinkedIn profiles too.
There are a number of good professional networking groups that you could join including the following.
– The Association of Banks in Singapore works for the interests of the banking community.
– The Institute of Banking and Finance is meant for professionals in the finance sector.
– The IT Management Association brings together IT professionals in the position of CIO etc.
– The Singapore Nurses Association promotes the professional interests and development of nurses in Singapore.
– The Institution of Engineers Singapore holds different activities and events that promote the interests of the engineering fraternity.
– The Singapore Entrepreneurs Network is a is a monthly entrepreneur community event by Project:Senso Ltd. As of March 2016 this group has over 11,000 members. It aims to connect local entrepreneurs through their various networking sessions.
There are a number of other associations such as the Spanish Business Association, Danish Business Association, Finnish Business Council, Swedish Business Association of Singapore, South Africa-Singapore Business Association, Indonesian Business Centre, and the Norwegian Business Association all of which promote the business interests of their respective countries in Singapore through various events and activities. These are great events for businessmen with interests in other countries to attend in order to extend their own networks in foreign countries.
Singapore is also home to a few female-focused professional networking groups including PrimeTime which was started in 1997 to give a platform dedicated to women’s professional and business needs. The organisation holds over 75 events during the course of the year and is run by member-volunteers. The majority of their members are from the advertising, marketing, IT, and financial services sectors. PrimeTime is open to female professionals from all countries and can count more than 30 nationalities amongst its members.
Other women-focused networks include the Athena network which organises events in order for their members to share skills, experience, and knowledge with each other. It also provides a chance for international collaborations and contact sharing. The Federation of Business & Professional Women is the Singapore affiliation of the International Federation of Business and Professional Women. It has three chapters in Singapore alone and is dedicated to developing the professional and leadership potential of women.