Being an expat can be as exciting as it is intimidating. It takes a lot of courage to leave the comfort of your hometown in search of a brighter professional (and personal) future.
In fact, a HSBC Expat Explorer study placed “Career Concerns” as the third greatest concern of expats around the world. And it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody. Navigating a foreign business market can be a daunting experience.
If you are contemplating making a move overseas or are already abroad and looking for your next professional challenge, here’s a few pointers that on how to build a professional network overseas can help you get on track to doing business like if you were home.
Start With Friends And Family
It could be close friends, acquaintances, or family members that might have a business or personal connection in the place you are going. That way, you would have a head start right off the bat. This said connection might not give you employment or engage in business right away, but he may know of another person that can.
Join Social Media Networks
Especially those that cater to a professional audience. Sites like LinkedIn, when tackled correctly, can showcase your skills and experience to basically the whole world. You can join discussion groups related to your area of expertise or related to the place you are moving and be active in those discussions.
Don’t be afraid to shoot a message, add new members, or ask for introductions. Be sure to fill out all information in a clean and organized manner. In LinkedIn, asking for recommendations and endorsements in particular, can boost your results in searches. This means that when someone does a search looking for candidates for a job in your area, you will be more likely to come up as the first option on their results.
Also, classic networks like Twitter, Instagram, and especially Facebook can net you opportunities for business. Facebook groups related to your field of business are a great way to reach possible clients or employers. Better yet, try to find groups specific for the country you are relocating to. That leads us right into the next step…
Join Local Networks
Joining local networks can help you target specific contacts in the country you are moving to. There are many networking sites and community platforms that work well for this end. For example, if you are relocating to Panama, you might look at websites like Encuentra24.com, Konzerta.com, and estascontratado.com to look for employment and business opportunities. A simple Google search can often give you a baseline for what types of groups are out there.
Make A Presence For Yourself On The Web
Though they might not be completely necessary if you are looking for the solo entrepreneur career, websites are your way to showcase your expertise and let people know more about anything you can do for them. As a business, if you aren’t on the web, you don’t exist. Simple as that. Having a website will make it that much easier to reach customers, and for customers to reach you.
Be sure to setup a website that is extremely user friendly, has easy access to contact information, and can be read in at least two languages (if you are heading to a destination that doesn’t use English as primary language). These are some of the pillars of a site that looks to generate business.
Stay In Touch With Your Existing Network
It’s not only about adding more and more connections to your collection. You’ve got to stay in touch. Keeping yourself relevant to your network is vital to your business quest, as this will keep you in the forefront.
The key here is to be as useful and as helpful as you can. Sending links, opportunities, videos, sharing contacts—almost anything that you know the people you reach will value.
Have in mind as well, that offline networking is even more effective than online networking. It is important to take those new contacts you’ve acquired online and meet them in person whenever possible. The act of physically meeting people you met online creates stronger bonds with them, and makes doing business with them that much more certain.
Business networking is not a quick or easy task to endure at first, but it can have a snowball effect. If you keep following and implementing these steps every day, your pool will eventually be big enough to be a concern of the past. Constantly nurturing it can even make miracles for your business in the long run. It comes down to being patient, dedicated, and driven about your goals.
And that’s it. If you take these tips and put yourself out there, you should develop your professional network in no time.