Professional networking tips are extremely useful both in and out of college. Whether you’re looking for an internship, a job right out of college, or the next step in your career, connecting with the right people could mean the difference between getting that opportunity you dreamed of and going back to square one. After all, they say it’s not what you know, but who. Check out these professional networking tips to help you get out there and reach those goals!
A great way to make connections is by making them through people that you already know. Whether you are lucky enough to get a job interview or you walk away with an informative conversation, talking to people who are doing what you want to do will give you a better idea of how to get there, and even the pros and cons of being in the field. It’s possible you’ll realize that there is a specific area of interest for you, or that you need to do a specific course, certification, or internship before you’re able to achieve your next step.
Maybe your best friend from college has a parent in the field that you’re interested in, or a friend of their parent knows someone. Maybe one of your professors knows someone. Maybe a friend of yours already graduated and now knows someone. If a person knows you and speaks highly of you already, you’re likely to make a good impression even before you meet this new potential mentor or employer.
You never know who you will meet or how they could influence you at a later time, so it’s a good idea to put your best foot forward at all times. Does this mean you always have to wear a suit even when you’re grocery shopping? Of course not! Instead, think about how you act. Are you behaving in line with your values? Would your behavior reflect well on your chosen career path? Would saying what you’re about to say change the mind of a potential employer?
It’s stressful to overanalyze everything you do, and I’m not suggesting you do that. Instead, consider who you want to be at work and in the world. If you’re not behaving in a way that supports those goals for yourself, check yourself. All the professional networking tips in the world are not going to advance your career if you’re not behaving like someone who deserves that career all the time. Be the person you aim to be, but do it right now before you get that dream career. Manifest that shit with an attitude that people can rely on.
With the invention of the internet, anyone can muck through your life with little effort. You know this. Clean up your social media profiles so that a quick search will bring up someone who looks like a good hire, not someone who is unprofessional and irresponsible. This is square one of professional networking tips in the digital realm.
Square two will be to update your work related social media profiles such as LinkedIn. Your résumé should be clear and up to date. Your work history, your volunteer experience, and your bio should be up. Any special projects you’ve done or awards you’ve won should be present. These work websites are not only a way for you to potentially connect with employers, but a way for employers to connect with you. Make sure they like what they’re seeing.
Effective professional networking tips will help you connect with people in a meaningful way. Your résumé (not your resume, you aren’t ‘restarting’ something) can be used as an important tool, and not just when you apply to a job. A good way to facilitate a connection is to ask some of the people you’ve established a relationship with to review your résumé in order to help you improve it. Not only will this give your connections the opportunity to get to know you and your work history, it will also reflect well on your work ethic and your willingness to improve.
If the goal is to expand your network, remember that that is your goal. It’s true that your network could lead to a job or an interview, but that isn’t your goal. Asking everyone for a job will not make it onto this professional networking tips list.
Instead, ask questions that will further your job search and your relationship. What twists and turns did their career path take? Did they always think they would end up where they are? Do they have a blog, TED talk, or person that they enjoy that you might be able to engage with as well? Recommendations for further learning are really helpful, and again, asking for them will reflect well on your ability to take initiative and willingness to improve.
While applying for a job might be all about you- what you bring to the table, your experience, your skills, et cetera- networking is not. Networking is about meeting people and forming relationships. Therefore, don’t try to impress someone with your accomplishments. It is likely to come off as self-centered, desperate, or it can put too much pressure on the other person.
Instead, you should focus on your behavior, your mannerisms, and your attitude. Are you eager to learn about someone else and their career? Are you curious about them? Are you kind in your responses? Are you empathetic to what they say? Are you likable? All of these things come out when engaging with someone else without you ever having to tell them. People prefer hiring people who they actually like and enjoy talking to.
It might be severe to compare monopolizing someone’s time with being a parasite, but it’s kind of the same, and it’s an effective image that is likely to stay in your head.
Although it’s great to want to talk to someone, and it’s even better to have an easy, flowing conversation with them, you shouldn’t consume more than an hour of their time, which is a natural time limit for a really good conversation. Outlining what you’d like to discuss ahead of time will help you to prepare, and will come off as professional and responsible. It’s wonderful if something they say sparks a new question for you, but there are few people who are great at winging it, so it’s best to have an idea of what you’d like to say first!
Listening to people in conversations, in interviews, or at professional lectures is a great way to get better at interviews and to learn the professional mannerisms that one might expect you to have. Additionally, when someone is taking the time to chat with you about their career, knowing full well that this is a networking move on your part, they will only feel that it is worthwhile for them if you listen and heed their advice.
All the information someone gives to you might not be helpful, but sifting through to find the things that are useful to you makes it worth both of your time. If you don’t pay attention at all, thinking that having the conversation is enough, then you aren’t getting everything out of it that you could be.
You don’t want to make a conversation all about you, but knowing when and how to give yourself a shoutout in the conversation proves to be very effective and can help people remember you better. It’s key to maintain your humility, while also being confident in what you have to say about your abilities.
A natural place in the conversation to give yourself a shoutout is after a personal anecdote given by the other person, or if your anecdote is in service to a question you have. Try to mention what the issue was, how you handled it, and what the outcome was. People like to hear about good problem-solving skills in action, and if you focus on how interesting the problem itself was, you can avoid coming across as self-centered.
A great way to follow up with a professional connection is to reach out with a genuine thank you email or, if you have their address, a hand-written card. Sending a thank you will showcase your good manners, while also reminding your new connection of who you are.
You can also follow up with another quick question, an article that applies to your past conversation, or even by connecting them to someone else (if the connection would be beneficial to them in some way). Just make sure not to go so far that you start pestering them. Happy networking!
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