For most recent graduates, the prospect of navigating your first serious job can be daunting. It’s difficult to know how to meet other industry professionals, build a network of like-minded people or use social events to create career opportunities.
The first step for every young professional with limited or no experience in the corporate world is to learn to put yourself out there. Start small to build your confidence day by day. Often, we’re told to fake it until we make it but the best networking is genuine and authentic.
Whether you’re looking to brush up on your networking skills for a new position, new company or just a new attitude, check out these seven key tips.
1. Know Your Pitch
Congratulations, you’re on the way to attending your first networking event. Now, what? It’s important to recognise that this opportunity could be intimidating, especially when you could sometimes be the youngest person in the room.
While entrepreneurs must overcome a multitude of new challenges, networking shouldn’t be one of them. Practice a different pitch for each likely scenario; an important industry figure could ask you questions about your recent professional background, long-term goals, personal interests or even that short course you studied a few years back.
2. Be Clear & Confident
Aim to convey who you are, what you do, why they should care and your major successes in no more than a few minutes. Effective networking requires a concise and prepared approach. Expect the unexpected!
If you don’t believe in yourself, how can others? Confidence doesn’t come naturally to most of us, so you may need to work on this. Start by not comparing your skills and attributes to your colleagues, focus solely on your career to manage your insecurities.
Great networking isn’t about being the same, it’s about being different. Demonstrate that you are qualified, passionate and ready to make a change. Confidence inspires trust, the foundation of all genuine working relationships.
3. Arrive, Ready to Go
Do more than memorise your speech and smile, bring all of the necessary tools with you for a successful conversation. A phone charger, business cards, water and pens are just some of the items you might want to have on hand.
Use the time in the lead up to calm your mind and try to eat before you go, that way you aren’t caught up in the drinks and appetisers. These often prove a monumental distraction for both yourself and the person you are trying to speak with.
4. Remembers Names & Faces
Try to remember the names of each person that you chat with. While some professionals choose to add everyone on LinkedIn that same night, it’s becoming increasingly clear that this is not always the best way to bring in more business.
Once you’ve finished a conversation, write a few key points on a small cue card. Things like what you spoke about, where they work and what their current situation is. Be sure to repeat their name back to them once you’ve shaken hands, this will help with recognition.
5. Revise Your Networking Goals
Perhaps your current network isn’t heading in the right direction for you. As your career continues to grow, your social circle should reflect this change. Ask yourself regularly, what are you hoping to accomplish? How would this person help? And finally, why would they want to?
Updating your professional network to keep it current will help to eliminate clutter and keep every communication friendly, authentic and results-orientated.
6. Use What You Know
Studying a University degree, TAFE course or short course affords you the perfect opportunity to leverage an existing network packed with young professionals like yourself, many of whom likely have similar interests.
Education is a great way to connect when you’re first starting out, and doesn’t necessarily need to be extensive to be effective. Enrolling into a short course or workshop can boost your industry knowledge and your confidence in interacting with strangers.
7. What Not to Do
- If you don’t know anyone there, don’t hide in the back of the room, buried in your phone. Approach someone! The worst that can happen is a bad conversation, which is better than none at all.
- Try not to joke about your age, this shows that you doubt your own experience level and gives other professionals a reason to disqualify you from the get-go.
- Don’t try to sell yourself or your business to the people you speak with, this is not the time to bombard them with your brand. Networking is all about making the connection, selling could be the next step.
Caroline Schmidt writes the blogs for Kangan Institute. She is passionate about education, careers, and giving advice to students of all ages.