Time to talk about Networking! Did you just cringe? So did I. Honestly, it used to make me queasy to think about walking around a room with a bunch of strangers and trying to make connections. But then I went to business school where networking was the secret sauce to landing jobs that you wouldn’t have otherwise.
So, though you may loathe it like me, networking can be a huge asset to young professionals. Let’s dust off those networking techniques with strong networking tips for young professionals.
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Professional Networking Essentials
The most important aspect of professional networking is mindset. Instead of looking at networking as a chore, think of it as an opportunity to meet interesting people, make new connections, and discover more about different industries, companies, and jobs.
Oftentimes, we reduce networking to stuffy people in suits walking around and bragging about how awesome they are. That’s why we hate it, right? But that’s not what true networking is.
What is networking?
Networking is all about relationships. It is the interconnected relationships of a person’s career starting from when they were a young professional. Those relationships can be leveraged to build new relationships and find new professional opportunities.
By networking, young professionals can increase their professional presence and deepen relationships with key people in industries and companies that interest them.
What is not networking?
An equally important networking essential is understanding what networking is not.
- Bragging about accomplishments is not networking.
- Talking condescendingly to others is not networking.
- Flattery and manipulation are not networking.
- Having a one-sided conversation is not networking.
What skills are required for networking?
There are no special skills required for networking or secret networking techniques. In fact, you should use the same skills that you use daily as a young professional. For example:
- Active Listening – Instead of listening to respond, think intently about what someone is saying to understand their viewpoint
- Presentation Skills – Speaking audibly, making eye contact, not overusing hand gestures
- Communication Skills – Using written and oral skills to communicate clearly
- Empathy – being able to understand and share the feelings of another person
- Confidence – Speaking up, inserting yourself politely into conversations, or staging an introduction
- A positive attitude
Is networking a soft skill?
Another networking essential for young professionals is soft skills. Soft skills cover all the nuances of social interactions. They change based on the culture, country, networking event, company, and people’s personalities.
Someone with strong soft skills is able to pick up on the other person’s verbal and non-verbal cues and respond to them accordingly.
I’ve included this skill as a networking tip for young professionals because soft skills are hard to teach. They are developed with practice. So, if you can hone your soft skills as a young professional, it will make you a more valuable employee long-term.
Check out more Valuable Career Advice for Young Professionals
15 Business Networking Tips for Young Professionals
Now that we’ve covered networking essentials, it’s time to dive into the networking tips for young professionals. These include basic networking techniques and tips for specific situations.
Basic Networking Techniques for Young Professionals
The next 3 basic networking techniques apply to almost all professional networking situations. They will help you make a good impression and keep the main thing, the main thing.
1. Create an Elevator Pitch
An elevator pitch is a quick way to introduce yourself, what you do, and the value it has for your company or company’s clients. This pitch should be something you can say during a short elevator ride, so somewhere between 15 to 60 seconds. Keep it short, sweet, and impactful.
For example, my elevator pitch for Kara J Lovett Co.:
I am a business consultant by day and Christian blogger by night. Through my writing, I encourage young women to live out their faith during the transition from college to the adult, working world. To do that, I write blog posts, share my own personal experiences, and come up with fun tips and tricks so that women have some practical ways to navigate this season of life.
2. Don’t Turn Networking into What It’s Not
Networking can take a lot of forms and fashions, but there are some things it clearly is not. Bragging about yourself or using flattery to manipulate a situation is not networking. Trying to get someone to guarantee you a job or push your resume when they’re not comfortable with it is not networking.
3. Go in with Realistic Expectations
In networking, you can expect to strengthen relationships or create new ones, but anything past that is above and beyond. The focus should be on building your network of professional contacts and deepening existing relationships. Unless you’ve established a mentoring relationship or explicitly stated another objective, that is where your focus should remain.
Networking Tips for Beginners
As young professionals, most of us are probably networking novices. You may be wondering how to network like a real professional? Check out these networking tips for beginners.
1. Look for commonalities – Work or Non-Work Related
The easiest way to make a connection with someone is find something you have in common. The size of the commonality doesn’t matter. If you both have traveled in Europe, work for large tech companies, or hate city traffic, start by discussing that. It will help get the conversation started and calm your nerves.
2. Do as Much Preparation as Possible
Research who you’ll be talking to. If there are keynote speakers or special attendees, look them up on LinkedIn or try to find information about their companies. If it’s a more general event, learn more about the organization hosting the event or what industries and companies might be represented.
You don’t need to memorize all this information. A little bit goes a long way in professional networking.
3. Give Yourself Grace
Grace is a huge part of what I preach at Kara J Lovett Co, and ironically, it’s something I need to improve on. Grace is all about giving yourself the space to make mistakes and learning to laugh at yourself.
Everyone has an embarrassing networking story!
If you don’t, you will eventually. Sometimes you can save yourself with a laugh or a clever joke, and other times, you just walk away. Either way, give yourself the grace to do so.
Networking Tips at Events
These next networking tips for young professionals focus on face-to-face interactions. Some events where you may be networking are alumni reunions, career fairs, or meetings for professional associations.
4. Wear your name tag (and Read others)
Names are so important when networking at large events because they help us remember faces and conversations. You could have a great conversation with someone, but if they can’t remember your name, your network doesn’t grow. By having your name visible, the person can look at it when you part ways and register your name with the great conversation.
5. Take Notes
At face-to-face networking events, you’ll talk to lots of different people about various things over the course of the event. It can be hard to keep everything straight. By writing notes, you will have good material for follow up conversations or reintroductions.
Write a couple conversation highlights on the back of a business card or keep a list on your phone of names and important conversation points.
6. Take Breaks
In person networking events can be tiring, so it’s important to take breaks. Take a jaunt around the room, get a sip of water, and gear up for more conversations. You don’t need to be talking to someone every waking moment.
LinkedIn Networking Tips
LinkedIn started out as a tool for professional networking, job seekers, and recruiters. Little by little, it’s turned into more social media. Nevertheless, the “tool” features of the platform still exist. For help navigating this half-social-media-half-professional-tool, read these networking tips for young professionals.
7. Have a Completed Profile with a Picture
While you don’t have to have every section on LinkedIn filled in, the basic information about your job experience and your education should be there. Anything on top of that is a bonus, but a picture is a must.
When you reach out to connect with someone on LinkedIn, they will likely view your profile before accepting the request. By having yours filled out, you can make a good first impression and find common ground with the person right away.
8. Use the Introduction Feature on LinkedIn
LinkedIn can tell you who in your network knows someone outside your network. So, if you know Lea Brown (in your network) and want to talk to John Smith (outside your network), then LinkedIn will tell you if Lea Brown knows John Smith.
From there, you can ask Lea to introduce you to John. People are usually willing to make introductions via the LinkedIn Messenger tool or share contact information. This is how I’ve landed one of my internships as well as gotten referrals to jobs I’ve applied for.
9. Be smart with your connection requests
LinkedIn allows you to write a short message when you connect to someone outside your network. In those 300 characters or less, be clear about who you are and why you want to connect to that person.
Secondly, choose whom you want to connect with wisely. If you can find someone who went to your school, studied your same discipline, or worked at the same company as you, then you can mention that in your connection request. These details make your request more likely to be accepted.
Networking Tips for Job Seekers
For job seekers, strong networking techniques can put you ahead and alert you of new opportunities. So whether you’re looking for a new job now or will be soon, here are simple networking tips for young professionals looking for a change.
10. Follow Up with People in Your Network
Remember all of those notes you took from the in-person networking event? After the event, reach out to the person via LinkedIn or email to thank them for chatting with you. Use those notes to personalize the message and make yourself memorable.
As a job seeker, you’ll want to use that same email chain to reach out to people in your network. Suggest a call or follow up meeting where you can catch up. Once you’ve caught up, you can mention that you’re currently looking for jobs and would appreciate if they’d let you know of any opportunities that match your interests and skills.
Most people will be more than willing to help, especially now that you’ve reconnected. Others won’t be so eager. No worries—remember to manage your expectations. Guaranteed jobs are not a part of networking.
11. Network to learn more about a company or position
For job seekers, networking can give you insights into a company’s culture or a particular position. Even if people can’t forward your resume or formally recommend you, they may provide information about the hiring process or tell you how to make your application stand out.
12. Adopt a growth mindset
Adopting a growth mindset means being willing to adapt, change, learn, and grow based on new opportunities and circumstances. Too often, we have a picture in our head of the perfect job, company, or industry. But that’s not reality.
Never shut down a conversation or write off a networking opportunity because it wasn’t the “perfect fit.” You may be surprised by what you can learn by networking outside your industry or outside your comfort zone.
Networking Tips for Introverts
There’s a misconception that introverts are anti-social beings that despise sunlight and interacting with the outside world. You think of a girl with glasses huddled behind a book or a guy in the basement playing video games, right?
Wrong! All the word “introvert” means is that we get drained out when we have too much social interaction. It doesn’t mean that we don’t crave social interaction or that we don’t enjoy it. We just know when to call it quits.
So my best networking tips for introverts are knowing how to start and when to quit.
13. Get Pumped Up
As an introvert myself, I often give myself “pep talks” before networking events. “Kara…you’re going to go into this networking event with a bunch of people you don’t know. It will be awkward at first, but you’re going to meet some interesting people and then be happy you came after all…”
Another trick I use to get pumped up is to listen to an upbeat song. It helps build my confidence and get myself ready for social interaction.
14. Set a Time Limit
I know my limits as an introvert, so when I’m networking, I will set a time limit. Leaving when you’re worn out is much better than continuing when you’re grumpy and tired.
If the event is 3 hours, I’ll stay for at least half. If it’s been a really tiring day, I’ll cap my participation at one hour. If things go well, I may stay longer. But giving myself permission to leave when I’m worn out makes networking much less stressful.
15. Give Yourself a Reward
For all the networking effort and social interaction you did, you deserve a reward. Treat yourself to a milkshake, a movie, or a day doing nothing. Whatever motivates you to attend the networking event in the first place is how you should reward yourself. Personally, I’ll take the milkshake.
If You Still Hate Networking, Read This…
In my strategic management class in college, the professor said something I’ll never forget:
Networking is not about you having the most LinkedIn connections or the longest contact list. It is really about who knows you and who can speak to your professionalism, work ethic, and skills.
My first promotion came from someone I worked with advocating for me in front of my department leadership. She had seen the quality of my work on our project and my professionalism with the client, which is why she recommended me for promotion. It’s what she knew about me that mattered, not what I knew about her. That’s what makes professional networking worthwhile.
Can you be successful without networking?
Yes, networking is optional. There is no rule that young professionals must network nor guarantee of what you will accomplish through networking. But while you can be successful without networking, I caution you against turning your back on it altogether.
Networking is a tool that you can use as a young professional to grow your career. It’s a virtually free tool, too, minus your time investing in professional relationships. So, while you can choose “not networking” and be successful, it may take you longer to reach your goals.
Related: The Best Career Advice I Ever Got
Why do I hate networking?
If you still hate the thought of networking, you could be approaching networking with the wrong mindset, thinking it’s an opportunity for a bunch of people you don’t know to brag about themselves and make you feel ashamed of how little you’ve accomplished. (Speaking from experience here).
On top of that, It’s scary to talk to a bunch of strangers and not know what you’re going to say or how to get the conversation started. Not to mention stressful.
Why is networking so stressful?
All of the politics and mind games of working in corporate can make networking more stressful. It’s also stressful to keep your “best first impression” look on during a long event. Since networking often doesn’t have an immediate return, you may be stressed at the thought of giving up an evening for an event when you can’t see the benefit now.
Best Networking Tips for People who Hate Networking
So, if you cringed at the start of this article when I mentioned networking tips, then this section is for you. I’ve gathered a couple of networking tips to help you get through it.
1. Change Your Mindset
Clear your expectations of what networking is and try not to think about negative networking experiences. There should be no politics, mind games, or manipulation involved. If there is, you can end the conversation and move on.
Networking is about meeting interesting people, learning what they do, and making connections.
If you’re stressed about the time commitment, think about the long-term goal. Recognize that making yourself known through networking as a young professional is a long-term investment in your career.
2. Do it with another Young Professional
Sometimes networking with a friend makes the experience more enjoyable. You can approach people together, making introductions for each other, and be assured that at least one person will be laughing at your jokes.
3. Pray for a Calm Spirit
Sometimes networking is just something we have to do. It’s part of being a young professional, making connections, and progressing your career. Instead of avoiding it at all costs, use the power of prayer to get through it.
Yes, God even wants to hear about our working struggles.
Through the Holy Spirit, He’ll give you the peace and composure you need to be an effective networker. Who knows? You might start enjoying it, too.
Professional Networking Tips for Young Professionals
Job markets are competitive, and getting your foot in the door as a young professional can sometimes seem impossible. But networking can be your edge. God can use it to open doors and bring new opportunities and experiences your way.
So even if you’re like me and hate networking, try some of these networking tips for young professionals and see where it takes you. Soon you’ll be networking like pro!
What are your strategies for effective networking?
Leave me a comment below!
Don’t miss this! More posts about Working and the Young Professional Lifestyle:
- Finding Great Mentors who can Impact Your Career
- Dealing with Tough Work Situations without Giving Up
- Valuable Career Advice for Young Professionals – Peer Approved
- 7 Secrets for Setting Work Boundaries & Getting Better Work Life Balance
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