As young professionals, we often hear stories about the magic of networking. This is true whether you are a college student looking to make the most out an internship experience or even if you are looking to take the next step in your career journey.
My first real taste of the power of networking came as a young, underemployed recent law school graduate. I went from an underemployed attorney in Washington, DC in August 2014 to a six-figure offer in New York City in August of 2015.
So, yes, networking works. It is a great way to look for job opportunities and to advance your career. However, we meet new people all the time whether in passing or by intentionally positioning ourselves. Great networking requires more of the later, which may seem overwhelming for some young professionals. However, check out these 5 networking tips to help make the experience a little less stressful.
Substance Over Quantity
Let’s say you have been invited to a professional networking reception. One of the main goals of networking to build a rapport with other professionals. Don’t give into the temptation of trying to shake every hand in the room. Instead, try having substantive conversations with three to five people during the course of the evening.
Be Clear About What You Want
Another objective of networking is that when others learn of opportunities, they think of you. Think of your introduction to other professionals as opportunities to input search queries into various search engines. You want them to remember your name and keywords.
Essentially, prepare to give a brief overview of your background, experience, and interests. Most importantly, be genuine your introductions to avoid starting new relationships with false pretense.
Be Open to Meeting New People
As a young professional, it is tempting to primarily devote your attention to those who seem like they are at the top of their professional game. However, there is a lot of value with establishing a connection with either other junior level professionals or other job seekers. Other young professionals can serve as a support for each other by providing intel about job opportunities, interview processes, company cultures, etc.
Remember, the goal is to build rapport with other professionals. Within 1-3 business days, you should follow up with a simple email and probably a LinkedIn connection. If you feel strongly about the professional connection, you may want to ask the person for an informational interview or to grab a coffee. These are great ways to establish connections with organizations that may interest you or to form a more substantive connection with other professionals.
Bonus: Establish a Professional Digital Presence
It’s 2017. LinkedIn can be an awesome tool for professional networking. Digital networking can be even more strategic because of the available information. You not only can research people who are in the positions that you hope to one day occupy, but you can also try to connect with and form substantive relationships with them.
One of the main objectives of digital or physical networking is to build a rapport within your sphere of influence. For example, LinkedIn allows professionals to do this by posting articles, blogs, and building a professional profile. As you continue to grow as a professional, you may want to start developing and sharing content related to your growing area of expertise. This will keep other professionals in your network abreast of your growth and knowledge.
Digital networking will probably never replace physical networking. However, if you are strategic, digital networking will allow you to maximize your networking efforts by discovering a target audience and being more transparent about your professional interests.
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André Cotten is a native Mississippian. He is currently an attorney based in Washington, DC. HIs current legal practice focuses on advising financial institutions on regulatory compliance issues.