How to Network Like a Professional (Even When You’re a Student or Just Starting Out)

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We hear it all the time: networking is the best way to grow professionally and climb the ladder of success. Considering up to 80% of jobs are never posted online, it makes sense that expanding your professional circle is the best solution to maximize your career opportunities. However, whether you’re a career veteran, a student, or just entering the workforce, networking can be daunting.

Not only can networking events be anxiety-inducing, but studies show that the majority of people are concerned about coming across as inauthentic or having an agenda. This is even more true for less experienced students just beginning their careers or holding in entry-level positions. Unlike organically developed friendships and familial ties, professional networking requires you to exchange information with and “sell yourself” to strangers in a way that prevents many people, especially young professionals, from attending networking events at all.

Whether you love it or hate it, experts agree: the most connected people are often the most successful people.

Consider these surprising statistics on the importance of networking:

  • 85% of jobs are filled through networking alone (including online networking)
  • 70% of people in 2016 were hired at a company due to a personal connection
  • 35% of professionals have landed a job opportunity through networking on LinkedIn

And yet, 1 in 4 people still don’t network at all.

If you’re not already actively networking, it’s time to begin. Here’s how you can get started with confidence.

Reframe Your Mindset

Networking events tend to be viewed as overly formal, leading to stress and pressure to present yourself as a competent professional to complete strangers. Rather than viewing these events as intimidating, change your mindset and remember that networking is a two-way street. Learn to look at it as an opportunity to relate to other students and professionals who share the same goal as you: to connect with new people and build mutually beneficial relationships.

Do Your Research

If you’re attending an event where there will be recruiters and representatives from companies in your industry, make sure to do your research and prepare to ask intelligent questions, as well as a 30 second interview pitch expressing who you are what your professional goals are.

Stay Open-Minded

Keep in mind that networking doesn’t always need to take place at a professional event. Other opportunities to network include volunteering, joining student societies, attending informational talks, internships, local events, and simply building relationships with people you come into contact with throughout your day.

Don’t Dismiss Opportunities to Connect Outside of Your Industry

Even if they’re not directly within your field, you never know who a new connection might be associated with. This makes it equally important to remember to never burn bridges, professionally or personally. Remember:

You are connected to everyone on earth by just 6 degrees.

All people are at a maximum of 6 connections away from each other, and technology only continues to make the world smaller and these connections closer than ever. Every new person you meet has the potential to propel you further along your career path. That said...

Allow Contacts to Grow Organically

Never reach out to someone just to be introduced to someone they know. Seasoned professionals often take years to build their contact list, and no one wants to feel taken advantage of. Allow your relationships to grow organically and with time and effort, your professional network will develop naturally.

Use Social Media to Your Advantage

Having an online presence is becoming increasingly important in the hiring process and can be an excellent opportunity to display your skill set. Start by creating a strong personal brand online and connecting with professionals in your industry on LinkedIn. Make sure to include a short personal introduction and have a header explaining who you are. Follow and engage with companies of interest online, as they often post job openings on social media.

If you’re a student looking to improve your networking or interview skills, we can help! Check out our flexible plans to gain a competitive edge over other applicants.

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