It’s your first day in a new job. There’s a few comfortingly familiar things going on around you. The desk looks much the same, except the office is a bit more crowded than usual. The computer has all the customary software. Even the new job description isn’t a million miles away from what you were doing before
However, one thing has changed. The people who played such an important part in helping you get things done in your previous role are now no longer available. Instead, you’re surrounded by unfamiliar faces — some friendly, some curious, some indifferent — and you’re suddenly reminded just how important working relationships are to both the smooth running of your working day and the progress of your career within the organization.
In career terms, it is professional relationships and networks that matter most. On a purely functional level, finding the right person to sort out your IT problems or answer an HR-related query won’t cause too many problems. On the other hand, in the absence of long-standing working relationships, where do you go for advice on a major client and whom should you approach to work with you on a major project?
Your external relationships may not be in place either. Clients, trading partners and friends in the business community can be a vital source of information, advice and introduction. Existing relationships and word of mouth referrals generate a huge amount of new business, and without such external networks the chances are you’ll be missing out on some real opportunities.
Building new networks
Günter Graeber, Director of M&A Tax and Indian-European Business Relationships at the Indian firm’s Mumbai office, is very familiar with the challenge of building new networks following relocation. During his time with KPMG he has worked in the UK, US and Swiss firms and, most recently, in India. “The focus of my career has been cross-border tax issues, and for that reason my work has been very international,” he explains.
In terms of professional relationships, the move to Mumbai was probably the most challenging. In previous postings, Günter had known people in the firms in question prior to the relocation. “But in India I really was starting from scratch.”
As he recalls, his colleagues in Mumbai made a real effort to ensure that he didn’t feel isolated upon arrival. “Ahead of the move, KPMG in India had already put me in contact with some of the colleagues I’d be working with, so I already had people to reach out to,” he says. “On the day I arrived, I went to lunch with the other Directors.”
These simple measures — plus a tour of the City, accompanied by a member of the M&A tax team — illustrate the role that an organization can play in helping a newcomer settle in and make his or her first essential contacts. But as Günter stresses, once the organization has made the initial effort it’s up to the individual to make the most of the situation.
“You have to be open to things and ready to chat to people,” says Günter. “It’s also important that it’s not a one way street. When colleagues make the effort to contact you, you should respond, make yourself available to talk and be prepared to listen to what they have to say.”
To build his contacts outside of KPMG in India, Günter has made an effort to find situations and environments where he can meet members of the business community in an unforced and natural way. These include trade fairs, conferences and forums, such as the Indo-German Chamber of Commerce. “The ideal is one where you can get together for a drink and a chat afterwards,” he says.
Günter stresses that this kind of proactive networking shouldn’t be a hard sell. “It’s about getting to know people without necessarily having any kind of business agenda,” he says. “But once people know who you are business opportunities may arise.”
Maintain existing contacts
One advantage of moving from place to place is that you have the opportunity to build a local or national circle of contacts and friends, as well as an international network. Günter says this isn’t difficult. “With email there isn’t a problem staying in contact. You can get in touch with old friends and colleagues easily and it’s always worth sending greetings at Christmas.”
Günter’s previous experience moving from country to country has undoubtedly been an asset, but his positive attitude and willingness to engage with people both inside and outside work has also been hugely important. Presently well into his second year in Mumbai, Günter feels established both in and outside work. “I feel pretty comfortable,” he says. “And I have plenty to do at the weekend.”