The value of networking can never be overstated, especially for recent grads with shiny new degrees.  Most of the jobs you’ll get will be through friends, family and professional contacts.  Unfortunately, most young professionals dislike networking and don’t give it their full attention.

Networking is vital to finding a job, building a professional reputation and advancing your career.  It’s helpful to realize the importance of networking, but it’s even more helpful to network effectively.  Young professionals must develop connections differently from more experienced professionals.  Here are some tips for recent grads or those new to the business world:

  1. Cast a Wide Net: A great place to begin networking is to connect with college classmates and alumni.  Also, reach out to former coaches, teachers, community and religious leaders, as well as friends’ parents.  You never know who might be able to help you out.  Contact your school’s career services office (if possible) or attend networking events to build your network of professional connections.
  2. Be a Follower: As a young professional, you will be expected to be an expert with all things online.  Employers will want college grads who can promote their personal brand online.  The way to begin doing this: find experts in your field and follow them on Twitter, LinkedIn and any blog or publication they might have.  Let the experts know you’re following all of their posts.  Not only will you learn from them, but you will show everyone your passion for a specific field and eventually, hopefully, add these people to your network.
  3. Be Proactive and Likeable: Networking is hard work.  It can be like a part-time job itself.  You’ll need to hand out your body weight in business cards, attend every networking event you can and send follow up e-mails to every contact you have made.  It is important to get lots of contacts, stay in touch with them and show everyone how proactive you are.  You’ll also want to be likeable to your contacts.  When you get in touch with them, ask them about their career and job functions.  Keep the ball in their court and they certainly won’t mind speaking to you.
  4. Look Polished: Professionalism and organizational skills are important for young professionals to have.  Looking polished while networking will give the impression that you have both of these qualities.  Being polished means dressing nice, but it also means proofreading everything you put online or send in an e-mail, always carrying updated resumes and business cards, being polite and always wearing a smile.  Being a polished, professional young worker will go a long way.
  5. Keep up with Your Network and Recalibrate Every Now and Then: Acquiring a business contact does not mean adding someone on LinkedIn.  You need to develop a professional, or personal, connection with someone.  Communicating via e-mail or social media is a good way to do this, but if you really want to stand out you can meet with them in person or talk on the phone.  Personal touches like these are rare in today’s corporate world and will ensure you’re remembered.  Also, you’ll want to find contacts in new fields to network with every now and then.  As you advance your career, and shift your goals, you will need to shift your professional circle too.  You’ll need to find people have been in your position, can give you advice and help you achieve your goals.

Networking is often overlooked by young professionals, but it is one of the most important things to do while looking for a job or trying to advance your career.  Recent grads and young workers must network differently than most.  Networking is what separates successful people from lifelong career coasters.

Topics: CareersCareer FairsJob Search