When it comes to networking as a young professional, knowing how to put your best foot forward to take advantage of opportunities in meeting new people can jumpstart your career. According to LinkedIn’s online survey, global professionals around seventeen countries expressed their beliefs about networking, how often connections are made, and what motivates (or hinders) them.
Surprisingly, data showed 61% of those surveyed agreed that consistent online communication is a smart strategy for future career opportunities. While this may seem unimportant, networking can lead to finding a dream job or advancing your career.
Here are 5 networking tips that’ll help you grow your connections:
Spark Up A Conversation
Meeting new people for the first time can be nerve wrecking, especially when you’re not sure on what to say first. Unfortunately, this is the reality for most people. We typically wait for someone else to start a conversation with us, rather than taking the initiative. Small topics such as a great local restaurant, vacation plans, a new book you’ve read, or the family pet are a few topics to get your mind flowing. Force yourself to talk to strangers to break the ice and become comfortable.
2. Be Attentive
My friends and I had a mutual friend who stared in her phone most of time, while we talked, barely listening to us. Whenever we went out to grab a bite to eat, she responded with generic replies like “yep”, “uh huh”, and “mmm”. This really upset us and we eventually stopped keeping in touch. Don’t give other people half of your attention.
Be interested in the other person and genuinely care what they have to say. Sometimes this doesn’t apply, but in most cases, just looking the other person in the eyes, smiling, nodding, and asking good questions can take you from strangers to friends. If you learn to develop good communication skills, you will connect with more people. Plain and simple. If you are guilty of such actions, do what you can to change your behaviors – it will come handy in the workforce whether you are searching for a job or working at your first job post college.
While listening is easy, active listening requires more work. When you are actively listening, it increases your retention as you are less inundated with distractions. In other words, when you’re an active listener, you are more present!
As the listener, you accept and encourage the speaker, but you leave the initiative in their hands. On one hand, keeping up with names can be tricky, so associate the person’s name with something to help you remember as you’re meeting countless individuals. Ask open-ended questions such as: What do you love/enjoy most about what you do? What career advice do you recommend? Lastly, be genuine and curious to get to know the person’s interests and experiences.
3. Keep Your Connections Close
In the beginning, your network may consist of family, friends, old co-workers, mentors or professors – and that’s okay! The key aspect is to keep contact with people who know your skills, have seen your growth, and can help you along your career path. Luckily, the internet has a ton of ways for us to stay connected with people no matter the city, state, or country. If you haven’t signed up yet, creating a personal profile on LinkedIn can make connecting with your network a breeze.
While skimming through LinkedIn, visit your connect’s homepages to see their new accomplishments, and stay up-to-date with their postings. Remind them that you’re intrigued with their journey and interested to grow the relationship.
Great networking is about genuinely growing relationships overtime. Keep in touch and offer to help those in your network. Try sending a message that has a warm greeting and wishing them well. Share an interesting article to your connections. Congratulate them on career milestones, or send an encouraging meme—this does an awesome job in adding value to the relationship.
4. Build Your Confidence
Stepping into a room full of strangers and being social is a common fear, especially for younger professionals. The key is to build confidence and comfort in networking situations over time. By actively looking for a variety of networking events to attend, you’ll be able to practice the key skills it takes to build your ideal network before you have to do so for a job.
Make a goal for yourself to attend a set amount of networking events throughout the year, with benchmarks for yourself every couple of months or so. Explore different types of events, such as – career fairs, alumni group meet-ups or professional conferences – in order to get a feel for how they work when the stakes are lower. This way, you’ll be able to improve your networking skills and meet new people along the way at your own pace!
Remember, before a networking event to eat healthy food and make sure you’ve had a good night’s rest, so you can be charged up. No one wants to feel drained with a loud, grumbling stomach that’ll distract them from interacting, or not being interested at all. Or even make a list of your strengths and personal accomplishments to read to yourself. Learning how to build positive self-esteem while changing your body language encourages teamwork, confidence, and improves memory.
Body language researchers Allan and Barbara Pease reported an incredible finding from one of their studies: When a group of volunteers attended a lecture and sat with unfolded arms and legs, they remembered 38% more than a group that attended the same lecture and sat with folded arms and legs.
5. DO A QUICK FOLLOW-UP
As a young professional, it’s not difficult to stop by a networking event and quickly exchange business cards. In reality, the goal should be to get in touch with new connections right away. A good rule of thumb to follow when reaching out is to send an email within 24 hours of meeting by striking up a conversation regarding the networking event.
From there, you might decide to connect further over coffee or lunch, ask questions and learn more about your industry. If not, keep the contact on your radar and don’t hesitate to reach out with words of encouragement after they share big career news or engage with posts that relate to you.
Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced pro, it’s always useful to learn how to network effectively and brush up your skills. We get it, sometimes it can be overwhelming thinking about the right words to say, and how to approach someone in a conversation, all while being confident in yourself. — Practice makes perfect! The good news is that when you learn how to network, you’ll start to adapt tactics that are most comfortable for you.