It’s not what you know, but who you know.
In today’s job market, it is estimated that 60-80% of jobs are found not through online job boards, but through networking. Because Millennials are newer to the job market, their networks may be smaller than the networks of people they’re competing against from older generations.
Bridge the gap with these tips on navigating the networking game:
Give and take.
Yes, the purpose of networking is to further your career by meeting other people, but don’t forget it is a two-way street. Remember, the people you meet are connecting with you for the same reason you are connecting with them. If someone you meet is looking for a great IT professional to add to their team, introduce them to your colleague with years of experience. Don’t just look for ways that your network can help you! You should also add value to their professional development, even if it just means complimenting them on a recent promotion or achievement.
Remember those old commercials with the Energizer Bunny who just wouldn’t stop? Be the Energizer Bunny of communication with your network. Within 48 hours of meeting someone, follow-up with a friendly email. Add your new connection on LinkedIn and don’t you dare use the generic “I’d like to add you to my network” default email. Personalize it to include something that was discussed, even if it was casual conversation, just so your new connection knows you remember. If your connections post an article or blog on LinkedIn, read it and engage in a thoughtful conversation about it in the comment section. Meeting someone once does not qualify as a meaningful connection. The relationship is built and maintained after the initial meeting takes place by continuing the conversation.
Ease into it.
If you are overcome with nerves at just the thought of saying hi to a stranger, networking may seem like a nightmare. Ease yourself into it by signing up to volunteer at an upcoming networking event. Being a volunteer means you won’t have to awkwardly stand around looking for potential connections, but you will be forced to communicate with everyone in some way, even if that means just checking everyone in at the registration table. After you work a few events, you’ll warm up to the idea of networking and chances are you will have made a few connections without even trying!
Find a mentor.
No networking opportunities in the near future? Make it happen on your own. Use LinkedIn to search for people in your field or desired position who live in your area. Send an invitation to connect with a note about how you are interested in hearing about their career, and would love to schedule time to talk. It may be uncomfortable to reach out to people you admire, but getting advice from someone who has traveled the career path you wish to be on is invaluable.
Go it alone.
Don’t rely on a friend or coworker to keep you company at a professional networking event. Bringing a buddy to a networking event will make it less intimidating, but also less effective overall. Having someone by your side to talk to will prevent you from branching out and putting yourself in uncomfortable situations to meet new people. What if you happen to run into someone you know at an event? Briefly say hello, and introduce yourself to whoever they may be with, but try to separate yourself and make connections alone.
Now that you’ve read these networking tips for millennials, share your tips in the comments below and don’t forget to share this article with your professional network!