Five years ago there was a guy who owed me a favor and to pay me back he invited me to an elite gathering in Seoul. One of the reasons I went was the cheap beer but four years later that night really began to pay off in other ways.
In 2012 I was halfway through my eight-year tenure at KAIST. My business card usually elicited a noteworthy response in Korea but at this event it merely qualified me to be there. I was rubbing shoulders with international reporters, heads of non-profit groups, and respected academics. As the social lubrication began to kick in I exchanged more and more business cards and joined many interesting conversations. When it ended, I was very satisfied and considered the favor to be repaid.
Looking back, the smartest thing I did the next day was send emails to many of the people I had met, telling them how nice it was to have met them and suggesting we stay in touch. I also added several of them on Facebook. Things began to pay off after I left KAIST in early 2016 and was conducting a workshop in a smaller city south-west of Seoul. One of the people I met saw that I posted where I was and mentioned that the government training center where he worked wasn't that far away and I should drop by and say hello. I visited the next day and met his boss. They were always looking for experienced freelance trainers and gave me a short course a couple of months later. More importantly, when a training center in Jeonju contacted them about recommending a new trainer they suggested me and I have been working with that training center very regularly since last fall.
About a month ago I started working with another person that I met that night in Seoul. We had kept in touch via Facebook and a few visits to her office over the years and it finally paid off professionally. She actually offered me an opportunity to work with her several years ago but I couldn't commute to Seoul so I recommended someone local that she has been very pleased with. This time when the opportunity arose for some online work she contacted me again and I jumped at the opportunity.
The moral of this story is threefold. 1. Make a good first impression. This can be a challenge when cheap alcohol is present but it's smart to prioritize the networking opportunity. 2. Use social networking platforms wisely. Mixing friends and business associates on one account can be tricky. Consider editing who can see certain posts and try to maintain a professional appearance for potential employers and clients. 3. Be patient. There may not be an opening for you just when you meet someone and it takes time to build trust and a strong reputation. Think long term and don't waste the chance to meet new people when the opportunity presents itself.
If you have a networking story to share, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.